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In Pursuit of Safer Chemical Substitutions

Posted on October 17th, 2017 by in Chemical R&D


When less-hazardous chemicals can substitute more dangerous ones, it makes sense to take on the responsibility of re-engineering the processes if it will minimize the risk. That’s why a growing contingent of R&D teams and manufacturing facilities are now replacing substances of very high concern (SVHC) with safer ones that provide similar functionality in the final product.

But to push for ongoing improvements in chemical safety, R&D teams, manufacturing plant managers, and regulators need to collaborate more effectively. This may require improving the funding and attention federal agencies provide chemical facilities as well as efforts to encourage research groups. Overall, the industry must pursue three main goals:

  1. Regulators expanding infrastructure to support SVHC chemical substitution practices
  2. Experts collaborating to encourage it, and
  3. Plant managers and technical support personnel instituting substitution practices

Regarding infrastructure, only roughly half of EU member states currently have it in place to support the practice of substitution, while most U.S. federal agencies have only one or two such staff members. Thus, one of the key ways to support chemical substitution is for regulators to push for increased staff capacity with the goals-of improving evaluation of potential hazards, assessing technical hurdles on the road to adoption of substitutes, and providing training to teams and facilities throughout the industry.

Experts within the chemical and manufacturing industries must also work together more closely to advance the idea of substitution within their own professional networks. One possibility is to establish a cross-functional network of academics, government researchers and industry experts for analyzing and recommending ongoing substitutes for hazardous chemicals. Such partnerships could make advances by discussing practical challenges, share non-proprietary findings relevant to safety, and provide support in testing, evaluating and demonstrating alternatives to hazardous chemicals and provide guidance to small and mid-sized companies.

And finally, managers of plants and other manufacturing facilities need to develop more specific and detailed guidelines for the analysis and quality verification of chemical substitutes, outlining minimum components and other criteria that must be met in order to use a substitute. These administrators must also provide training for their own staff to educate workers on how to handle, store and use substitutes in the safest ways possible.

Read the white paper to learn more: R&D Investments Support Chemical Substitution Practice….But More Help Is Needed.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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