As the demand for safer chemicals and technologies grows, the field of alternatives assessment is becoming increasingly important in guiding the transition towards safer, less toxic alternatives. Throughout Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) delegations, alternatives assessments are being used to respond to government regulations, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) in the European Union (EU) and state-level regulations in the United States (U.S.), as well as industry, retailer, and consumer demands for products that do not contain harmful chemicals. The U.S. National Research Council (NRC) defines alternatives assessment as a “process for identifying and comparing potential chemical and nonchemical alternatives that could replace chemicals of concern on the basis of their hazards, comparative exposure, performance, and economic viability” (National Research Council 2014). Alternatives assessment generally takes place after a decision to substitute occurs and helps guide that process. The use and practice of alternatives assessment approaches have advanced considerably in the last decade. Alternatives assessment frameworks, guidance documents, tools, and data sources have been developed by governments and other organizations to assist practitioners in selecting safer alternatives. Businesses have successfully replaced chemicals with known hazards for human health and the environment with lower concern alternatives. Leaders in industry, academia, and the research community continue to drive innovation towards chemicals, products, and processes that are “safer by design.” In addition, new research and professional networks are advancing dialogue on best practices in the field.
OECD, 10 March 2021