To achieve the ultimate goal of sustainable chemicals management policy–the transition to safer chemicals, materials, products, and processes–current chemicals management approaches could benefit from a broader perspective. Starting with considerations of function, rather than characterizing and managing risks associated with a particular chemical, may provide a different, solutions-oriented lens to reduce risk associated with the uses of chemicals. It may also offer an efficient means, complementing existing tools, to reorient chemicals management approaches from time-intensive risk assessment and risk management based on single chemicals to comparative evaluation of the best options to fulfill a specific function. This article describes a functional approach to chemicals management we call “functional substitution” that encourages decision-makers to look beyond chemical by chemical substitution to find a range of alternatives to meet product performance. We define functional substitution, outline a rationale for greater use of this concept when considering risks posed by uses of chemicals, and provide examples of how functional approaches have been applied toward the identification of alternatives. We also discuss next steps for implementing functional substitution in chemical assessment and policy development.
December 17, 2014
Tickner, J. A., Schifano, J. N., Blake, A., Rudisill, C., & Mulvihill, M. J. (2015). Advancing Safer Alternatives Through Functional Substitution. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(2), 742-749.