Two New EPA Initiatives You Should Know About

In its continuing effort to promote safer chemicals and products, the EPA recently announced advancements on two important fronts, its ToxCast screening program, which provides a fast method of screening chemicals to predict how they may impact the body and the environment, and its Design for the Environment (DfE) program, which helps industries identify and select safer chemical alternatives.

Launched in 2007, ToxCast integrates advances in molecular biology, chemistry and computer science and uses human and animal cells and proteins to quickly and cost-effectively screen chemicals in automated tests or assays. To date, 300 chemicals have been screened using the ToxCast tool, in what the EPA called the first phase.

On November 30, the EPA announced that ToxCast was entering its second phase in which an additional 700 chemicals will be screened, bringing the total number of screened chemicals up to 1000. That number is still a small fraction of the total number of chemicals in commerce, tens of thousands of which of the EPA says have not been “adequately assessed for potential risks to human health and the environment.”

The EPA hopes ToxCast can reduce its “reliance on slow and expensive animal toxicity tests” and contribute to the goal of Tox21, a federal agency collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, to screen 10,000 chemicals by the end of next year.

The other big EPA announcement this week is about the new criteria for use under the Design for the Environment Alternatives Assessments, which is a tool for industry and other groups to identify safer alternatives to chemicals that pose a concern to human health and the environment.

According to the announcement, “Information on chemical hazards from DfE Alternatives Assessments is combined with industry data on performance and cost to guide the choice of safer alternatives. To distinguish among alternatives, DfE evaluates data for each chemical and assigns hazard levels of high, moderate, or low for human health and environmental concerns.”

Those chemicals and products the EPA deems safer are allowed to carry the DfE Label; the label signifies that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient and that based on available information the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.

- The MSDSonline Team -