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.



WHAT's new

The OECD just released a Guidance on Key Considerations for the Identification and Selection of Safer Chemical Alternatives. The aim of the guidance is to advance broader agreement on a general approach and criteria for the selection of safer alternatives, with a focus on chemical substitution. It is intended to advance a consistent understanding of the minimum requirements needed to determine whether a chemical alternative is safer than the priority chemical, product, or technology for substitution, independent of the entity performing the assessment or the alternatives assessment framework being used. The guidance focuses on minimum assessment criteria and recommended assessment practices for four core areas of alternatives assessments: (1) determining the assessment’s scope, (2) comparative hazard assessment, (3) comparative exposure assessment, and (4) the integration of hazard and exposure results to select a safer alternative. The guidance also includes recommendations for moving beyond the minimum criteria and assessment practices.




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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