Safer Product Design Programs
Pollution Prevention Programs
The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 elevated pollution prevention as the fundamental goal of environmental protection efforts in the US. While the Act did not prescribe any particular agency actions, it has led to the establishment of a number of EPA voluntary research and outreach efforts. Pollution prevention represents an important and indirect route to chemicals management - production process redesign and product design change can result in a substantial reduction or substitution of problem materials. EPA’s efforts on pollution prevention have ranged from voluntary sector- or use-based initiatives to examine alternatives to problem substances, to procurement guidelines, to product labeling initiatives, to design challenges. EPA’s Pollution Prevention programs are divided into the following categories: green products and business practices, design for environment/green chemistry, and persistent and bioaccumulative toxics.
Visit the Pollution Prevention website.
The Pollution Prevention Framework (P2 Framework) is a set of tools and processes for designing and evaluating new chemicals. The Framework promotes safer chemicals and processes in the beginning phases of chemical production. To do this, EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) uses a set of computer models to screen new chemicals for characteristics, properties, or relationships to other chemicals that may be an indication of toxicity to human or natural systems. While the Framework is not meant to replace the need for important testing data, EPA designed it as a tool for industry to recognize potential problem substances before their manufacture.
The P2 Framework models that OPPT has developed include a physical-chemical properties model; an environmental fate model; human health and environmental hazards models; and exposure and/or risk models.
The “PBT Profiler” is a free on-line tool for manufacturers to screen chemicals for PBT characteristics. The Profiler allows a substance to be tested for persistence in the environment, bioaccumulative potential, and aquatic toxicity based on its chemical structure. Since its release to the public in 2002, the profiler has been used to evaluate over an estimated 45,000 chemicals. This program, and other EPA computer models, allow companies to predict the environmental and public health risks associated with a chemical before it is commercially produced.
Visit the Pollution Prevention Framework website.
Sustainable Futures is a voluntary pilot project initiated in 2002 that partners EPA with industry in designing safer chemicals. Sustainable Futures promotes pollution prevention in chemical design. Through this project, the EPA works with businesses experienced in pollution prevention, or that have shown their ability to work within the framework of pollution prevention programs. The project is designed to generate important information on pollution prevention options in chemical design and processing.
Visit the Sustainable Futures website.
Design for Environment
The Design for Environment (DfE) program is a series of partnerships with industry to prevent chemical exposures through educated business decisions. DfE identifies a range of technologies, products, and processes that can be used to prevent pollution; evaluate and compare the risk, performance, and cost trade-offs of potential alternatives; encourage and enable use of subsequent information by providing mechanisms and incentives to institutionalize continuous environmental improvement; and distribute this information to the industrial community.
Visit the DfE website
A number of trade unions, universities, non-government organizations, government agencies, and dominant corporations including Dow Chemical, Exxon, and Proctor and Gamble have participated in DfE programs in the past. Most noteworthy, the Garment and Textile Care Partnership has seen a steady decline in perchloroethylene use in the dry cleaning industry in the US since the program began in 1993. At the same time, sales of environmentally preferable cleaning machines has risen to over 400 machines sold since the program began- a market that was created by the demands of the Partnership.
The ultimate goal in each DfE partnership is to “green the supply chain” and introduce environmentally friendly procedures and frameworks throughout a product’s lifecycle. DfE is comprised of separate projects that encompass an industrial sector.
Green Chemistry Programs
Green Chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green Chemistry applies across the life cycle, including the design, manufacture, and use of a chemical product. The EPA has undertaken a range of Green Chemistry initiatives: (1) The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge. The Challenge offers individuals, groups or organizations rewards for innovations that help benefit human or environmental health. Grants and awards are given jointly through an EPA/National Science Foundation partnership. (2) Educational materials. EPA and the American Chemical Society have partnered in efforts to ensure that green chemistry innovations are being incorporated into students’ education of chemistry. (3) The Synthetic Methodology Assessment for Reduction Techniques program (SMART). The Program is used by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) to review manufacturing methods used in new chemical submissions and is designed to complement the New Chemicals Program. Based on the review, EPA may suggest methods for pollution prevention that invoke the principles of Green Chemistry. (4) The Green Chemistry Institute. A partnership between the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the EPA, the Institute is a non-profit entity that promotes environmentally friendly chemistry by means of research, education, communication, and conveyance of information to government, advocacy, educational and corporate institutions.
Visit the Green Chemistry website.
Product Labeling Initiatives
EPA’s Consumer Labeling Initiative is a voluntary effort to allow consumers greater environmental health information on product labels by encouraging industry, public interest and environmental groups, NGOs and trade associations to determine what information is necessary to protect consumer health. In addition, through this effort, EPA is currently working to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in regard to pesticides.
Visit the Consumer Labeling Initiative website.
Green Engineering Program
The Green Engineering Program works to incorporate concepts of risk prevention into chemical processes and products developed by academia and industry. The program has drafted a textbook to be used by educators in teaching engineering principles and practices, has organized workshops to facilitate information sharing, and has developed computer software to help chemical engineers assess risks while in the process of product design. EPA maintains a green engineering website to make information available to students and educators, and conducts a series of national conferences with various chemical and engineering organizations.
Visit the Green Engineering Program website.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program aims to facilitate the US Executive Offices’ procurement of products with a reduced effect on environmental health when compared to competing products. The program targets government spending of $240 billion annually as purchasing power that EPA believes will minimize environmental degradation wherever possible.
Visit the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing program website.