Environmental Safety Screening for Consumer Products
By Miranda Henning, BCES, Managing Principal
Heather M. Summers, Senior Consultant
A trade association representing numerous consumer product and ingredient manufacturers was seeking to evaluate and disseminate information on the environmental safety of their portfolio of product ingredients. The current method of assessment involves collecting extensive data on the exposure and toxicity of more than 1,000 chemicals, but progress has been slow due to the time-consuming nature of the process and limited access to centralized data resources. The association aims not only to perform these evaluations but also to effectively communicate the results to the public through a user-friendly, publicly available, web-based tool that allows for updates and provides high confidence in safety conclusions. However, the development of this tool has not been progressing as planned.
Based on our evaluation of the work done thus far, Integral determined that the primary obstacle in the environmental safety assessment process is obtaining detailed, chemical-specific information on the use and safety of thousands of ingredients. To address this constraint, we proposed a tiered approach under which all ingredients are screened first using readily available, conservative data and a high-throughput methodology, and then only the subset of ingredients that did not pass the initial screening would require more accurate inputs on exposure and toxicity. Also, to enhance the assessment process, we suggested incorporating new methods for modeling exposure and selecting conservative screening thresholds.
A proof of concept for high-throughput screening is currently in progress. Early results suggest that at least one-third of the chemicals tested do not pose a threat when disposed of properly down the drain based on conservative estimates of exposure and toxicity. The next steps in this proof of concept include refining data inputs to address gaps and uncertainties and developing a web tool for consumer product manufacturers to use in 2023. This tool will provide easy access and clear results for designing new products and reformulating existing products to ensure environmental safety.