Don’t Replace Your Lab’s Hazardous Chemicals with Regrettable Substitutes

Chem Industry News

hazardous chemicals
While trying to replace hazardous chemicals, be careful that you don’t replace them with a “regrettable substitute.
Image source: Flickr user UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences

In the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday full of traditions. In my family, these traditions involve gathering together in order to have a turkey dinner that includes dinner rolls, stuffing and real cranberry sauce.

That last ingredient is very important to me. Real cranberry sauce adds flavor and zest to a sometimes dry turkey. And it has to be real sauce, because real cranberries have more flavor than a canned alternative. In my opinion, using canned cranberry sauce is a “regrettable substitution.”

Regrettable substitutions can also occur in the consumer packaged goods industry, particularly as pressure from consumers and regulators force the brands that operate in this industry to eliminate hazardous chemicals from products. Unfortunately, the alternative chemicals that some companies are selecting to use instead have not been comprehensively screened for either human health or environmental impact. This increases the risk that the laboratory is adopting substitutes that are possibly more dangerous chemicals than the ones that are being replaced.

The best way to avoid regrettable substitution is to ensure that there is informed substitution. BizNGO, a non-profit dedicated to helping companies eliminate hazardous chemicals, published The Commons Principles for Alternatives Assessment, a guide to identifying and selecting chemical alternatives. In this document, the group suggests that informed substitution can occur in the following ways:

  • Use Best Available Information – There are a growing number of databases that contain information on chemicals and their hazards, including the REACH European Chemical Agency Database. This database seeks to contain all of the available information on any hazardous chemical used in a consumer product in Europe.
  • Require Disclosure and Transparency – The idea behind disclosure and transparency is to engage the supply chain to become involved in ensuring the safety of a chemical. This includes both laboratory personnel for where the product is designed as well as suppliers that provide the raw materials.
  • Resolve Trade-Offs – Before a substitution occurs, it is important to understand the effects the substitution will have on the product. This includes looking at the potential benefits and impacts, and understanding the alternatives in order to make an informed decision.

For lab directors, it is important to understand the pressures consumer packaged goods companies are under to create products using safer chemicals. Whether production is internal or outsourced, laboratories are stakeholders in the product lifecycle and need to be willing to work with companies to identify and understand any chemical substitutions that are made.

This kind of partnership requires a lot of communication about the current chemicals used. To track this information, laboratories may want to consider consolidating all of the required information by implementing a chemical management system. Such a system increases a laboratory’s ability to respond to requests regarding chemical information because all of the information is kept in one database. This includes information regarding the chemical, the manufacturer and potential hazardous risks. Since all of the details are in one location, reports can be quickly generated and provided to decision makers to resolve trade-offs.

Like canned cranberry sauce on the table, consumer packaged goods companies do not want to end up with a “regrettable substitute.” Implementing a chemical management system like BIOVIA CISPro can help ensure that laboratories that support this industry provide companies with accurate information so they can make informed decisions. For more information, please visit our website today.

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