The Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse has published version 1.0 of their Alternatives Assessment Guide.  The IC2 is mostly made up of government entities from active states like MA, CA, OR, WA, NY, MN and EPA's Design for Environment program.

The Guide's "Golden Rule":

The objective of an
alternatives assessment is to
replace chemicals of concern
in products or processes
with inherently safer
alternatives, thereby
protecting and enhancing
human health and the

Their bias is for the sequential, with hazard being the primary knock-out stage.  But they also provide modules to consider product performance, cost and availability, and last (and for sure least), exposure.  A stakeholder module is encouraged as a first step after identifying chemicals of concern.  Additional modules are offered as optional: materials management, social impact and life cycle.  Three frameworks for working through an alternatives assessment - sequential, simultaneous and hybrid - and tiered efforts within each are described.

There are some useful references and examples and decision-tree series of questions, with acknowledgement that assessments need to be tailored for the user.  It will be interesting to see if many businesses pick up on this and if it will become a simple "just find something not on a hazard list" exercise.  It may be used mostly by agencies doing their "product stewardship" (aka ban) projects.

I think the hybrid model, with much more emphasis on how it's an iterative process is more realistic in the business world.  It also provides a focus on risk management rather than just hazard.  Adequate risk management has to be in place (and has costs as well).  If finding safer alternatives is good planning, but not always easy.

If you'd like assistance in doing your own prioritization of alternatives assessments, EHS Strategies, Inc. can help.

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