How to substitute?

How to substitute?

Substituting substances is not necessarily a simple replacement of one chemical with another. You need to do your homework and there is no "one size fits all". Methods that work in one company may not work for your product or process. One approach you can use to address your substitution challenge is functional substitution, where you consider the specific function of the substance and how it could be met by alternatives in a broad sense – covering not only the substance itself but also aspects such as production techniques and product design. You may also need to try several alternatives before you find the best one. In your assessment, beyond the consideration of the hazard, exposure, technical performance and economic aspects, it is important to also look at wider effects, where these are relevant, such as energy and resource use, waste, recycling and socio-economic impacts. If you choose to develop a brand new product, consider an approach that takes into account safety and sustainability across its entire lifecycle. 


Identifying substances of concern in use is the first step in implementing your plan for substitution successfully.

  • Make an inventory of the substances you use.
  • Prioritise the substances that are candidates for substitution. These include substances that are considered the most hazardous, substances that may not be absolutely necessary for a product to function, and substances that may be subject to regulatory actions or market pressure in the near future.
  • Identify the key functions that your substance of concern performs in the product or process.
  • Inform and consult your supply chain, both clients and suppliers, to identify potential concerns and options.


Useful resources for creating an inventory

Main resources

  • PRIO Inventory tool: PRIO is a web-based tool that can help you to preventively reduce health and environmental risks from chemical substances.
  • Global Automotive Declarable Substance List (GADSL): The global standard list for declaring the composition of parts within the automotive industry.
  • IMDS: Automobile industry’s material data system.
  • Textile sector: Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals programme (ZDHC): The ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) is a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials and trim parts in apparel, leather and footwear.

Information on hazard of substances


Useful resources for prioritization

Guidance documents on prioritisation

Specific lists of hazardous substances (non-exhaustive)

Other lists

  • OSH Wiki – Dangerous substances: Examples of dangerous substances listed by EU OSHA
  • Trade Union Priority List for REACH Authorisation: Priority list of chemical substances of very high concern set up by EU trade union association.
  • TEDX: List of potential endocrine disruptors set up by TEDX, a science based, non-profit research institute.
  • Safer Chemicals Ingredients List: List of chemical ingredients that the Safer Choice Program has evaluated and determined to be safer than traditional chemical ingredients used for the same function.
  • SIN List: The “Substitute it now” list of substances set up by the NGO ChemSec.
  • SINimilarity: Database set up by the NGO ChemSec for checking if your chemical bears structural resemblance to that from the SIN List.

Tools to support prioritisation

  • GreenScreen® List Translator (GSLT): Screen assessment tool for identifying chemicals of high concern. It attributes scores to chemicals based on information obtained from over 40 hazard lists. GLST can be an effective tool for prioritising chemicals for a more in-depth scrutiny and assessment.
  • PRIO – Prioritisation tool: PRIO is a web-based tool that can help you to preventively reduce health and environmental risks from chemical substances.

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