Researchers from various environmental groups and academic institutions are recommending that substances classified as “chemicals of concern” should only be used when their function is deemed absolutely necessary and no other options are available.
The authors of a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology recommend that governments and businesses in the U.S. and Canada fully transition to the “essential use approach” by defining chemicals of concern using a broad range of hazard traits, according to a Jan. 19 news release from the Green Science Policy Institute. To be approved, the chemicals would need to meet the "easiest" of the following criteria:
- Is the function of the chemical necessary for the product?
- Is use of the chemical the safest feasible option?
- Is use of the chemical justified because such use in the product is necessary for health, safety or the functioning of society?
The researchers also recommend applying the essential-use approach early in the process of developing, using, and managing chemicals of concern, and supporting decisions by engaging diverse experts and sharing information necessary for identifying essential uses.
“In the U.S. and Canada, most chemicals have not been evaluated prior to use,” said Carol Kwiatkowski, co-author and scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute. “Once a chemical is suspected of causing harm, it can take decades before any restrictions are enacted. By that time, the chemical is often replaced with a similar one that will also take years to regulate. The essential-use approach is a more efficient strategy to minimize risk before harm occurs.”
The full paper is available here.