Phasing out EDCs

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that affect hormones in humans and wildlife in a negative way. Unfortunately, these chemicals are found almost everywhere. They are present in many everyday products, for example soft plastics, electronics, textiles and cosmetic products. Even though the negative effects of EDCs are well-known, decision-makers struggle to regulate them effectively. In fact, only a handful of the known EDC substances have been identified and listed on the EU Candidate List, which is the first step towards restricting a harmful chemical. Since there are many more out there that should also be regulated, ChemSec identified an additional 32 EDCs that fulfill the EU criteria for inclusion on the list.

To protect human health and the environment and to stay ahead of regulation, it is important for companies to take a proactive approach and start phasing out EDCs from their products and processes immediately. ChemSec has therefore developed a flowchart consisting of a four-step process to get the substitution work started. The flowchart includes practical questions that will improve companies’ chemicals management and guide them towards the use of safer chemicals instead of EDCs.

Read more about EDCs here

Step 1 - Investigate

Step 1:
Investigate

Step 2 - Function

Step 2:
Function

Step 3 - Find alternatives

Step 3:
Find alternatives

Step 4 - Phase out

Step 4:
Phase out

STEP 1:
Investigate

‹ Back to overview

Does your product contain any of the 32 EDCs?

Aim: To identify EDCs in products and add discovered EDCs to RSL list

A good base for EDC identification is to start with the 32 EDCs identified in a scientifically based study by ChemSec. If there is a need to increase the scope, a compilation of both identified EDCs, as well as EDCs under evaluation within the EU can be found here.

Use the following sources to find out whether your product or supply chain contain EDCs:

  1. Full material disclosure (FMD)
    • Request FMD from suppliers
  2. Compositional analysis data (chemical analysis)
    • Request compositional analysis data from suppliers
  3. Obtain supplier declaration or product chemical content information from suppliers

As a last resort you can perform chemical analysis. As chemical tests are expensive you might want to do some prework in investigating what kind of EDCs can be expected in a specific product or material. Knowing the use and function of the EDCs can help you here, this is described also in the next step.

STEP 2:
Function

‹ Back to overview

Is the EDCs necessary?

Aim: Determine function of EDC and if it is essential for the product

  1. Scope: Understand function of the EDC in the relevant product and process.
  2. Criteria: Decide which physical and functional properties the replacement must have in order to match all functions within the scope.

Use the following questions to determine function:

  • What properties and function does the substance provide?
  • In what materials do we need those properties?
  • In what products do we have such materials?
  • Who supplies them?
  • Is the function necessary for the product or process?
  • Is it a contaminant or by-product?

STEP 3:
Find alternatives

‹ Back to overview

Is there an alternative that can replace the EDCs?

Aim: Find an alternative that can replace the EDC

  1. Assessment: Investigate which replacements have viable properties according to the criteria. Include external variables such as availability, price or quality in order to decide which would be the most suitable replacement.
  2. Look for an alternative technical solution or drop-in chemical. Can another material be used where this chemical is not necessary?

Use the following sources to find alternative chemical/material/process:

STEP 3:
Find alternatives

‹ Back to overview

Is the alternative safer?

Aim: Find an alternative that can replace the EDC

The initial step is to decide upon criteria for hazard properties to determine if the alternative is safer than the chemical you want to substitute.

There is no universal approach to determine safer. Different companies and organisations handle this in different ways in order to avoid regrettable substitution. The most common approaches to determine if an alternative is safer are:

  • Hazard lists
  • Available assessments and methods
  • Own or existing hazard criteria
  • A combination of approaches

Criteria for substances of very high concern:

  • Chemicals with CMR properties
  • Chemicals with EDC properties
  • Chemicals with PBT/vPvB properties
  • Chemicals with PMT properties
  • Chemicals on the SIN List

Resource to determine safety:

After having assured that the alternative is safer, to be viable, you need also to consider:

  • Performance of the alternative
  • Price of the alternative
  • Availability of the alternative
  • Environmental aspects such as emissions, energy, water use and waste

STEP 3:
Find alternatives

‹ Back to overview

Develop safer alternative

Aim: Find an alternative that can replace the EDC

If no suitable alternative can be identified, there are some other strategies that can be pursued:

  • Change process/techniques
  • Change product design
  • Change material
  • Change chemical

However, if no safer alternative exists and no other approach is viable, the remaining option is to develop a safer alternative. The process is different in different organisations, but the main steps can be:

  • Set up innovation team or find innovation partner (EIC Accelerator)
  • Use R&D department to develop safer alternatives
  • Test hazard properties of potential alternative according to criteria
  • Remember to minimize the risk exposure by providing protective equipment for the workforce

STEP 4:
Phase out

‹ Back to overview

Initate phase out

Aim: To remove and replace hazardous EDCs

At this stage, you know:

  1. What chemical to replace/remove
  2. The function of the chemical

To remove the EDCs, consider the following aspects:

  1. Assure product quality and performance trough pilot testing
  2. Set timeline for phase out
  3. Perform phase-out

STEP 4:
Phase out

‹ Back to overview

EDCs phased out

Great job!

You have now completed the flow chart and started your journey towards more safer products.