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September 07, 2022
Changes to the EPA's Safer Chemicals Ingredients List

In recent weeks, the EPA has made two announcements about new chemicals added to its Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL). The SCIL is a “living list of chemicals by functional-use class that EPA’s Safer Choice program has evaluated and determined meet the Safer Choice Standard.” Products containing chemicals on the SCIL are the gold standard of products for household and industry safety.

In the August announcement, the EPA added 22 chemicals to the SCIL. The July announcement added 36 chemicals to the list.

SCIL removal process

The Agency also announced the removal of two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the SCIL.

“In March 2021, EPA made testing results available related to PFAS found in fluorinated containers,” says an EPA news release. “The contamination was first noted in HDPE (High Density Poly Ethylene) containers used to store and transport a pesticide product. As the agency continues to determine the potential scope of the use of this fluorination process outside of its use for pesticide storage containers, EPA is issuing this letter (to the HDP industry) to notify industry of their statutory obligations under TSCA and to help prevent unintended PFAS contamination.”

To remove a chemical from the SCIL, the EPA first marks the chemical with a gray square on the SCIL webpage to provide notice to chemical and product manufacturers that this chemical may no longer be acceptable for use in Safer Choice-certified products. A gray square notation on the SCIL means the chemical may not be allowed for use in products that are candidates for the Safer Choice label, and any current Safer Choice-certified products that contain this chemical must be reformulated unless relevant health and safety data is provided to justify continuing to list this chemical on the SCIL.

The required data is determined on a case-by-case basis. In general, data useful for making such a determination would provide evidence of low concern for human health and environmental impacts. Unless information provided to the EPA adequately justifies continued listing, this chemical would then be removed from the SCIL 12 months after the gray square designation.

Once these updates are finalized, the SCIL will contain 1,055 chemicals, according to the EPA.

SCIL process

Each chemical ingredient in a formulation has a function in making a product work, whether it is to aid in cleaning by reducing surface tension (surfactants), dissolve or suspend materials (solvents), or reduce water hardness (chelating agents). Within these "functional classes," many ingredients share similar toxicological and environmental fate characteristics. As a result, Safer Choice focuses its review of formulation ingredients on the key (environmental and human health) characteristics of concern within a functional class. This approach allows formulators to use those ingredients with the lowest hazard in their functional class while still formulating high-performing products.

The functional classes are:

  • Chelating and sequestering agents;
  • Colorants, polymers, preservatives, and related chemicals;
  • Defoamers;
  • Enzymes and enzyme stabilizers;
  • Fragrances;
  • Oxidants and oxidant stabilizers;
  • Processing aids and additives;
  • Solvents; and
  • Surfactants.

To expand the number of chemicals and functional-use categories on the SCIL, the EPA encourages manufacturers to submit their safer chemicals to the EPA for review and listing on the SCIL.

Products with the Safer Choice label help consumers and commercial buyers identify products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance.

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