For more than a year, CPSI gathered regularly to discuss alternatives assessment processes and methods. The outcome of these meetings was the realization of a need to engage a broader group of experts who had been working independently on alternatives assessment methodologies, but who had not been in contact with each other. By bringing together professionals in chemicals substitution, alternatives assessment, life cycle assessment and product policy from various stakeholder groups, CPSI has been able to share information on existing assessment methods, create and strengthen communication networks, and draft protocols for performing alternatives assessments.
Many challenges exist in assessing and substituting alternative, less hazardous chemicals, including:
- identifying materials of highest concern;
- identifying which products contain these priority substances;
- defining a safer substitute based on toxicity, functionality, and cost;
- anticipating possible health, safety, and environmental trade-offs that might exist;
- addressing disparities in the cost and performance of alternative materials;
- discovering whether an adequate substitute exists for a given application; and
- obtaining the necessary technical support to implement an alternative.
In addition to the final report from the Lowell Center's "Designing Safer Alternatives," to the right is a list of existing alternatives assessment methodologies which attempt to address these challenges.