Alternatives assessment involves a review of a current product and possible alternative chemistries or systems with the ultimate aim of reducing the product’s potential impacts on human health and the environment. Unlike a traditional product risk assessment, alternatives assessment considers not only hazard (i.e., toxicity) and exposure potential, but also the feasibility, performance, and cost of the current product and alternatives to obtain a comprehensive understanding of what a change in the product would mean. Notably, alternatives assessment considers these decision factors throughout the product life cycle, from raw material acquisition, product production, and product use, through product end of life.
Alternatives assessment can range from the fairly simple (e.g., an internal company discussion of whether a new product chemistry is worth pursuing) to the more complex (often in response to a regulatory requirement). Alternative assessment is also typically done in stages, as a way of maximizing information for decision-making while limiting time and cost.
Gradient scientists are well equipped to address green chemistry and alternatives assessment needs on many fronts, including helping companies make decisions about project formulation, chemical assessment and hazard ranking, regulatory support and review, risk screening and prioritization, and life-cycle thinking.
Alternative Assessment of Biocides
Gradient evaluated potential replacement biocides used in the leather tanning process for a client concerned about potential for skin sensitization. The work was for internal product development purposes. We used the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Alternatives Assessment method to identify potential alternative chemicals that could be used. Our analysis aided our client in negotiating with suppliers over possible production changes for their products.
Spray Foam Alternative Analysis
Gradient conducted an Alternatives Analysis under California’s Safer Consumer Products (SCP) regulations for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) used in two-component, high- and low-pressure sprayed polyurethane foam. Alternatives evaluated included both different chemistries, as well as different application systems. We identified product requirements and functions, relevant toxicological, exposure, performance, and cost information, and compared alternatives with the designated priority product. We then developed an Abridged Alternative Assessment report for submission to state regulators. The report was subsequently approved by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Alternative Assessment of Automotive Refrigerants
Gradient evaluated human health and environmental risks of potential alternative automotive refrigerants as compared to the predominant refrigerant, HFC-134a, which is being phased out to address climate change concerns. We used fault-tree analyses to perform an assessment of potential toxicity and flammability of the alternatives. We also evaluated relative costs, technical feasibility, and environmental impacts of HFC-134a and its alternatives.
Toxicological Evaluation of Pesticides
Gradient assessed the toxicological properties of several pesticide products following a hazard ranking system. Each pesticide was assigned to one of four categories representing potential environmental or human health hazards. Our work was used by a public agency to screen alternative pesticides as part of its green chemistry program.
Comparative Alternative Assessment for Electronic Equipment
Gradient conducted a comparative evaluation of two dielectric fluids proposed for use in electric automotive vehicles. We created air models of potential passenger and repair worker exposures in the event of system failures and assessed the associated potential health risks of those exposures. Our work considered the technical performance of the two materials, as well as their life-cycle impact.
Health and Environmental Impact Evaluation of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Alternatives
Gradient performed an evaluation of the human health and environmental impacts of commercial wall coverings for the developer of a commercial building. These included polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based wall coverings, as well as those made of natural, fiber-based materials. The evaluation considered the impacts of the material choices across their full life cycle. Our work helped the developer make an informed selection of the wall-covering material.