EPA Will Accept Comment on Potential Expansion of Safer Choice and DfE Programs, Announces August 29, 2023, Webinar
On July 25, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an opportunity for public input on the potential expansion of the Safer Choice and Design for the Environment (DfE) programs’ certification to new product categories. EPA notes in its July 27, 2023, Federal Register notice that Safer Choice “helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment.” 88 Fed. Reg. 48463. DfE “is a similar program currently used by EPA for the purpose of helping consumers and commercial buyers identify antimicrobial products that meet the health and safety standards of the normal pesticide registration process required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA),” as well as other rigorous criteria required by EPA. EPA will hold a listening session webinar on August 29, 2023, and request stakeholder comment on which new product categories Safer Choice and DfE could expand into and how the potential expansion could offer significant benefits to human health and the environment. To receive the webcast meeting link and audio teleconference information before the webinar, the notice states that stakeholders must register by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on August 28, 2023. Comments are due September 11, 2023.
During the listening session, EPA will present its proposed plans to expand Safer Choice and DfE certification to new product categories. According to EPA, Safer Choice and DfE certifications “would likely not expand to certify materials.” EPA states that “the availability of EPA certified products would help give consumers a choice of products that meet EPA’s high standard for human and environmental health and, as part of meeting these criteria, would not contain intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).” After the presentation, there will be time for attendees to submit questions and comments. EPA states that it will respond to the questions and comments as time allows during the listening session. EPA asks for written submission of all comments after the listening session.
EPA states that as part of its human health and environmental mission, the Safer Choice program partners with businesses to help consumers and commercial buyers identify products containing chemical ingredients meeting EPA’s criteria for being “safer” without sacrificing quality or performance criteria set by EPA. The Safer Choice program certifies products containing ingredients that have met the program’s criteria and allows companies to use its label on certified products that contain safer ingredients and perform, as determined by expert evaluation. EPA notes that the Safer Choice program certification “represents a high level of achievement in formulating products made with safer ingredients for people and the environment.” More information is available on the Safer Choice website.
EPA currently uses the DfE program to help consumers and commercial buyers identify antimicrobial products that meet the health and safety standards of the typical pesticide registration process required by FIFRA, as well as the DfE certification criteria (as described in the Safer Choice Standard). More information is available on EPA’s website.
Safer Choice/DfE continues to enjoy broad support. Importantly, this notice signals EPA’s interest in reinvigorating Safer Choice/DfE following significant staffing declines resulting from EPA reassigning technical experts from Safer Choice/DfE to core Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) programs. With its many recent hires, the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) appears to be dedicating the staff time necessary to expand the product categories that are eligible for recognition.
We encourage innovators that have developed substances that can be used in Safer Choice/DfE product categories to engage with EPA to get such substances listed on the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL) and formulators to seek recognition of the final, formulated products. This will ensure the continued success and utility of these important programs.