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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 10, 2021, that it added 36 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA states that the SCIL “is a living list of chemicals, by functional-use class, that EPA’s Safer Choice program has evaluated and determined meet Safer Choice criteria.” Listed chemicals “are among the safest for their functional use.” According to EPA, the SCIL is a “critical resource” that can be used by many different stakeholders, including:

  • Product manufacturers that use the SCIL to help them make high-functioning products that contain safer ingredients;
  • Chemical manufacturers that use the SCIL to promote the safer chemicals they manufacture;
  • Retailers that use the SCIL to help shape their sustainability programs; and
  • Environmental and health advocates that use the SCIL to support their work with industry to encourage the use of the safest possible chemistry.

EPA’s Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the program’s human health and environmental safety criteria. Companies can use the Safer Choice label on products that meet the Safer Choice Standard. EPA’s website contains a complete list of Safer Choice-certified products. EPA states that in the coming year, it hopes to expand the Safer Choice program “to make products containing safer chemicals increasingly available to underserved communities, including communities of color and low-income communities.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 13, 2021, that Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative now includes cleaning and other products certified by EPA’s Safer Choice program. According to EPA, Safer Choice is now one of 30 sustainability certifications highlighted under Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly initiative that helps customers shop for more than 75,000 products through the company’s online store. EPA notes that highlighting Safer Choice-certified products makes it easier for consumers to locate products that contain safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance. Products identified as Climate Pledge Friendly are distinguished on Amazon’s website by an hourglass-with-wings symbol. The company also provides its customers with detailed web pages that include information on how and why products are certified as sustainable.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2021, a “unique and broad group” of chemical manufacturers, brand owners, environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO), states, and municipalities sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to express their “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice Program and to encourage that the program be funded fully. The letter asks that the following language be included in the report:

The Committee supports the Safer Choice program and directs that the program be funded and operated at least at levels consistent with Fiscal Year 2014, adjusted for inflation.

According to the letter, in the last quarter of 2020, EPA reorganized the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), dissolving the Safer Choice branch and reassigning most staff to the areas of OCSPP. The letter states that “[a]s a result, the program is now severely under-resourced with approximately four full-time staff.” The Biden-Harris EPA has taken steps to restore the program, but EPA still faces resource constraints.

The letter describes how companies across the value chain use the Safer Choice brand to advance their individual safer chemical initiatives. Chemical manufacturers invested in developing safer chemicals now listed on the Safer Choice’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). Brand owners and product manufacturers have reformulated products using the SCIL to obtain Safer Choice certification. Major retailers specify the Safer Choice label as a verifiable way to meet corporate goals laid out in public-facing chemicals policies.

According to the letter, the Safer Choice Program also provides value to entities outside of the supply chain. States and municipalities rely on the Safer Choice Program “because it is the only third-party program that requires all ingredients to be screened for hazards instead of simply using a restricted substances list.” NGOs and consumers “find significant value in an authoritative government program that can be trusted to vet safer chemicals and products.”


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson

EPA announced on March 23, 2021, that it is now accepting nominations for the 2021 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards. According to a Federal Register notice published on March 24, 2021, the awards will recognize the leadership contributions of Safer Choice partners and stakeholders who, over the past year, have shown achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals that further outstanding or innovative source reduction. EPA “especially encourages” award applications that show how the applicant’s work in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of those products promotes environmental justice, bolsters resilience to the impacts of climate change, results in cleaner air or water, or improves drinking water quality. All Safer Choice stakeholders and program participants in good standing are eligible for recognition. Interested parties should submit to EPA information about their accomplishments and contributions during 2020. Submissions are due May 31, 2021. EPA will recognize award winners at a ceremony in fall 2021.

Safer Choice is an EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) program, which includes practices that reduce, eliminate, or prevent pollution at its source, such as using safer ingredients in products. The Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met its “specific and rigorous” human health and environmental toxicological criteria. EPA notes that the Safer Choice program allows companies to use its label “on certified products that contain safer ingredients and perform, as determined by expert evaluation.” EPA states that the Safer Choice program certification “represents a high level of achievement in formulating products that are safer for people and the environment.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 24, 2020, EPA announced the 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners. EPA recognized 18 Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners across ten states and the District of Columbia for achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals that further outstanding or innovative source reduction. EPA states that the Safer Choice program helps consumers and purchasers for facilities, such as schools and office buildings, find products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment. According to EPA, the 2020 Partner of the Year award winners represent businesses, including woman-owned and small- and medium-sized; federal and local government; and associations. The following organizations from eight EPA regions are being awarded this year:

  • Apple -- Cupertino, California;
  • BASF Home Care and I&I Cleaning Solutions -- Florham Park, New Jersey;
  • Berkley Green -- Uniontown, Pennsylvania;
  • The Clorox Company -- Oakland, California;
  • Defunkify -- Eugene, Oregon;
  • DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences -- Palo Alto, California;
  • ECOS -- Cypress, California;
  • Grove Collaborative -- San Francisco, California;
  • Hazardous Waste Management Program -- King County, Washington;
  • Household & Commercial Products Association -- Washington, D.C.;
  • Jelmar, LLC -- Skokie, Illinois;
  • Lemi Shine -- Austin, Texas;
  • Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support -- Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania;
  • PROSOCO -- Lawrence, Kansas;
  • PurposeBuilt Brands -- Gurnee, Illinois;
  • Sea Mar Community Health Centers -- Seattle, Washington;
  • Seventh Generation -- Burlington, Vermont; and
  • Wegmans Food Markets -- Rochester, New York.

More information is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On June 30, 2020, EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on its audit to determine whether the Safer Choice program effectively meets its goals and whether the program achieves quality standards through its product qualification, renewal, and required audit processes. OIG states that EPA’s Safer Choice program does not have formal goals included in the FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, and the program has not reported results for FYs 2018-2019. The program does have internal, non-outcome-oriented goals, however, which it is generally achieving. The Safer Choice program’s goal is to add 200 Safer Choice products to the program and 25 chemicals to the Safer Chemical Ingredients List each year. According to OIG, in FY 2019, EPA added 265 products and 24 chemicals. OIG states that by not including formal goals for the Safer Choice program in EPA reports while continuing to receive Congressional funding and support, EPA limits not only accountability to Congress and the public, but also the extent that the program can use performance management information to make policy, budget, and management decisions. OIG notes that the Safer Choice program has general controls in place for the required Safer Choice audit process, and EPA reviews audit summaries and corrective actions provided by third-party profilers (TPP). EPA does not routinely review all supporting documentation, however, relying on TPPs to review and retain these documents. Additionally, the Safer Choice program does not have procedures in place to conduct any formal performance reviews of TPPs or oversight reviews of TPP partner audits. According to OIG, without periodic audit oversight, including full reviews of supporting documents and formal performance reviews of TPPs, EPA risks approving products that do not comply with the Safer Choice Standard. OIG recommends that the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention develop and publish adequate Safer Choice program goals and performance measures, establish and implement procedures for formal audit oversight of TPPs, amend its memorandums of understanding with TPPs to require performance reviews conducted by EPA, and collect and document TPP audit supporting information.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On May 14, 2020, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), a BRAG member, announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved eight cleaning product ingredients submitted by ACI for inclusion in EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA’s Safer Choice Program focuses on assisting consumers, businesses, and purchasers to find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. SCIL is a list of chemical ingredients that have been evaluated and determined by the Safer Choice Program to be safer than traditional chemical ingredients. This is the first time that the Safer Choice Program has approved a SCIL submission by a non-manufacturer. Kathleen Stanton, ACI Associate Vice President of Technical and International Affairs and BRAG company representative, commented on ACI’s achievement stating that “[a]dding chemicals to the SCIL encourages innovation and growth in safer products, increases markets for manufacturers and helps protect people and the environment.” The following chemical surfactants were added to SCIL:

  • Octadecanoic acid, 2-ethylhexyl ester;
  • Alcohols, C12-15;
  • Octadecanoic acid, 12-hydroxy-;
  • Fatty acids, C8-18 and C18-unsaturated, sodium salts;
  • Fatty acids, C14-18 and C16-18-unsaturated, sodium salts;
  • Potassium oleate;
  • Fatty acids, palm-oil; and
  • Sulfuric acid, mono-C14-18-alkyl esters, sodium salts.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

EPA published a Federal Register notice on March 23, 2020, announcing that the EPA Safer Choice program is accepting submissions for its 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards. 85 Fed. Reg. 16334. EPA states that it developed the Partner of the Year Awards to recognize the leadership contributions of Safer Choice partners and stakeholders who, over the past year, have shown achievement in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals, furthering outstanding or innovative source reduction. All Safer Choice stakeholders and program participants in good standing are eligible for recognition. Interested parties who would like to be considered for this award should submit to EPA information about their accomplishments and contributions during 2019. EPA notes that there is no form associated with this year’s application. EPA will recognize award winners at a Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards ceremony that is being planned for fall 2020. Submissions are due May 31, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 23, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced that it plans to begin fieldwork on EPA’s Safer Choice program. According to OIG, its objectives are to identify and assess the controls that EPA has in place to verify that the Safer Choice program meets its goals and achieves quality standards through its product qualification, renewal, and required audit process. OIG states that Safer Choice “is a voluntary labeling program that helps consumers and commercial buyers find chemical-based products that are safer for human health and the environment.” OIG plans to conduct work at headquarters and at various third-party assessor and auditor locations. It will use applicable generally accepted government auditing standards in conducting its audit. The anticipated benefits of the audit “are reducing the use of chemicals of concern and empowering consumers to protect their health.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 25, 2019, EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) recognized fourteen Safer Choice Partner of the Year award winners for their outstanding achievements in the design, manufacture, selection, and use of products with safer chemicals for use in households and facilities nationwide. Representing businesses, including woman-owned, small- and medium-sized, local government, and associations, winners from across 12 states and the District of Columbia were recognized.


 
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