Chemical safety and biosafety

Substitution of hazardous chemicals


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As interest in the substitution of harmful chemicals continues to grow in industry, NGOs and the public sector, organisations are seeking guidance on the selection of appropriate methods and tools. The OECD is responding to this need.



Report on Substitution and Alternatives Assessment of Harmful Chemicals - January 2016

The Synthesis Report from the OECD Workshop on Alternatives Assessment and Substitution of Harmful Chemicals has been published by the OECD Ad Hoc Group on Substitution of Harmful Chemicals. It summarises the main conclusions from an expert workshop on Substitution and Alternatives Assessment of Harmful Chemicals that was organised in Paris on 11-12 May 2015. The expert workshop aimed to identify where gaps remain in terms of possible missing tools, guidance and research to support stakeholders engaged in alternatives assessment and substitution of harmful chemicals. The conclusions in the report support the development of future activities of the OECD Ad Hoc Group.

A number of issues associated with the way alternatives assessment and substitutions are taking place today emerged from discussions at the workshop, such as:

  • A large amount of expertise and experience is being generated from past alternatives assessment and substitution cases. Efforts should be made to collect and compile this “real life” experience.  This would serve as a critical source of knowledge to  identify and address common challenges, as well as to identify and share good practices and success stories, and to make the business case for substitution
  • There is a recognised complexity of the alternatives assessment and substitution processes. Providing flexible guidance and best practices to help manage the complexity and uncertainties in the process would support companies, in particular SMESs, to engage into alternatives assessments and substitution processes. It was also acknowledged that the level of complexity of the assessment and the attributes addressed should fit the purpose of the assessment, and avoid "paralysis by analysis"
  • There is a large variety of approaches used by countries to support substitution. It is important to learn from each other's’ experiences in this area, to strengthen public policy and programmes for substitution


In 2012, the OECD’s Joint Meeting of the Chemicals Committee and the Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides, and Biotechnology established an Ad Hoc Group on Substitution of Harmful Chemicals with the goal of furthering tools and approaches to support decision making for the substitution of chemicals of concern. The Ad Hoc Group is co-chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Chemicals Agency. Its members include a broad range of stakeholders (government agencies, industry, trade associations, NGOs, and others) across OECD member countries.

The Substitution and Alternatives Assessment Toolbox (SAAToolbox)

As part of its work, the Joint Meeting requested that the Ad Hoc Group build on existing work to develop a toolbox to support the evaluation of alternatives when safer substitutes to chemicals of concern are sought. The first version of the SAAToolbox (Substitution and Alternatives Asessment Toolbox) was released in January 2015. The OECD SAAToolbox is a compilation of resources relevant to chemical substitution and alternatives assessments. The toolbox includes a range of resources where you can learn more about chemical substitution and alternatives assessments and get practical guidance on conducting them.

This is a first version of the OECD Substitution and Alternatives Assessment Toolbox. The toolbox aims to be enriched and regularly updated.

The above described toolbox built upon a literature review focusing on the current landscape of substitution practices in OECD member countries.  It discusses definitions, principles, frameworks and tools for alternatives assessment, as well as the key drivers and audiences, and it identifies the contribution that OECD can make in this space: Current landscape of alternatives assessment practice: A meta-review (PDF).


  • Stakeholders can submit information to be added in the toolbox and/or general comments on how to improve the toolbox to the OECD by sending an email to
  • Decisions on whether to include the submitted information will be taken by the OECD Ad Hoc Group on Substitution of Harmful Chemicals, comprising experts from governments, industry and NGOs.


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