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EPA’s Safer Choice Standard: Advancing Environmental Protection through Safer Products


EPA’s Safer Choice program has been in place since 2015, and its roots go back to the early 1990s when the Design for the Environment (DfE) program began. The Safer Choice Program prevents pollution and reduces risk to people and the environment by promoting green chemistry alternatives through what the EPA classifies as “informed substitution”. “Informed substitution” is the considered transition from a chemical of particular concern to safer chemicals or non-chemical alternatives. For alternative raw materials and chemicals to be considered safer choices, they should meet as many of the following criteria as possible:

  • Technically feasible
  • Provide an improved profile for health and the environment
  • Account for social considerations; and/or
  • Have the potential to result in lasting change

Safer Choice Informed Substitution for Product Formulations

Safer Choice Functional Use Classes

The Safer Choice Standard categorizes each ingredient that is found within a product in their distinct functional use classes, including:

  • Surfactants
  • Solvents
  • Chelating and sequestering agents
  • Rheology modifiers
  • Plasticizers
  • Ingredients that are commonly protected as trade secrets
    • Fragrances
    • Preservatives
    • Colorants
  • Processing aids and additives, etc.

The standard then compares the toxicity and fate profiles to identify the safest ingredients. When the safest possible ingredients are used to formulate a high-performing product, Safer Choice recognition can be achieved. Additionally, Safer Choice considers whole product characteristics, including possible negative synergies between a product’s pH level and ingredients, as well as product lifecycle factors, like energy efficiency and water savings. The Safer Choice program also includes Criteria for Safer Chemical Ingredients, which is a resource that can and should be referenced when formulating safer products.

The Role of Experienced Formulators in Developing Safer Choice Products

In order to achieve a finished product that meets Safer Choice standards, partnering with an experienced formulator is key. Formulators understand how to optimize a product formulation for both health and environmental performance, while meeting critical functional requirements. Are you looking to modify an existing product or product line to meet Safer Choice standards? Avomeen’s team of formulators have experience innovating and modifying existing products to meet green chemistry standards, including Safer Choice. Get in touch with an expert today.

Safer Choice Product Review Process

Safer Choice Product Attributes

Safer Choice products only contain ingredients that pose the least concern to health and environment in its product class. For example, if a product contains a surfactant, the surfactant that’s present in the Safer Choice product will be biodegradable with non-polluting degradation products, and won’t be toxic to humans. On the contrary, surfactants found in “conventional” products biodegrade slowly or biodegrade to more toxic and persistent compounds that pose a threat to aquatic wildlife.

EPA’s Approach to Reviewing Safer Choice Products

Safer Choice product reviews are in-depth and rigorous. The process starts with a review of established information for each chemical ingredient, including how the ingredient functions within a product and how it affects living things. If there are still questions or more information is needed, EPA then looks into the chemical structure of a given ingredient to better understand how it could impact the environment and consumers. EPA states that the Safer Choice review process:

  • Uses its expert knowledge and predictive tools to supplement lists of chemicals of concern
  • Spots negative synergies between product components
  • Screens all ingredients for chemicals that may present serious health or environmental effects
  • Recommends safer substitutes for chemicals of concern

Understanding EPA’s Safer Choice Product Label

The Purpose of the Safer Choice Label

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that identifying and finding products that are safer for consumers, their families, and the environment shouldn’t be difficult. The EPA’s Safer Choice label provides consumers with a quick and easy way to identify high-quality, high-performing products that contain safer chemical ingredients.

The History of the Safer Choice Label

As this initiative has evolved from the DfE program to the Safer Choice program, in 2015, the DfE Safer Product label became the Safer Choice label, with a more modern look to help consumers easily recognize products that meet the Safer Product standards. The Safer Choice label offers options for products designated or specific uses, or based on product criteria, including:

  • Products for use in businesses, office buildings, sports venues, and schools
  • Industrial and institutional products
  • Fragrance-free products

The Right Partner to Formulate Safer Choice Products

For many, partnering with a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) is the right choice to modify an existing product or product line, or to create a new, innovative product that meets EPA’s Safer Choice product standard. Avomeen’s team of expert formulators have decades of experience modifying existing products and creating new and innovative products that meet green and eco-friendly regulatory standards. If you’ve got a specific project in mind, connect with a formulation expert today.


Our expert blogger is Kamil Toga, Avomeen’s Project Lead, Innovation and Product Development. Kamil’s extensive experience encompasses materials research, deformulation, and formulation & product development. Clients benefit greatly from his strong track record in successful and productive collaborations across a wide range of industries, including consumer products, food, agro, tech, energy & transportation. Kamil’s understanding of industry regulations and green product guidance and standards ensure products are developed and improved upon to meet environmental standards while meeting or exceeding performance specifications. His expertise in polymers and materials is recognized, and multiple instances of his work have been published in various journals and blogs.