Assessing chemical hazard

Do you have concerns about the safety of the chemicals your company uses? Are the potential alternatives really any safer? Reviewing safety data and conducting a hazard assessment can help you answer those challenging questions.

Chemical hazard databases

Several organizations have developed databases to help identify the impacts chemicals have on human health and the environment. These databases are excellent places to start learning more about the potential impacts of chemicals you use. Two of the most helpful are:

Pharos is an online database of more than 34,000 chemicals that screens against 60 hazard and warning lists and categorizes them according to GreenScreen® criteria. Simple and easy to use, Pharos is an excellent starting place to begin learning more about potential impacts of chemicals you may be using.

Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT)
ChemHAT is a free online chemical database that lists information on risks and potential alternatives. Like Pharos, it depends on authoritative lists but is geared more to provide information of interest to workers.

Chemical hazard assessments

Chemical hazard assessments collect the impact data from different sources to give each chemical a grade or score. These assessments give users a consistent way to compare one chemical against another. Ecology recommends two chemical hazard assessment methods:

Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT)
Ecology developed the QCAT as a simpler, less expensive alternative to conducting a more comprehensive chemical assessment. QCAT is designed to give small and medium-sized businesses the ability to identify the problems related to chemicals they use, or to help any chemical user prioritize opportunities for reducing potential hazards.

GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals
GreenScreen® is a very comprehensive chemical hazard assessment method developed by the nonprofit group Clean Production Action and used by companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Staples, and Nike to evaluate problems associated with chemicals used in their products. GreenScreen® is based on work done by the U.S. EPA's Safer Choice program and is part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 and the Cradle to Cradle sustainability standards.

After you've found you've prepared your GreenScreen and found your hazard scores, you can use this automated tool created by ToxServices to confirm the Benchmark Score.

If your business is serious about addressing the impacts from chemicals it uses, Ecology staff can help you conduct chemical hazard assessments. Contact Brian Penttila at 360-407-6758 for assistance.

You can also search the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2) Chemical Hazard Assessment Database (CHAD) to find free completed QCATs and other chemical hazard assessments.

Not all hazard assessments are equal

The graphic to the right shows different tools for screening and assessing chemical hazards. Safety Data Sheets (SDS)—formerly known as MSDS—are the traditional starting place for assessing chemical hazards, but provide limited information. Screening tools like ChemHAT and Pharos can help you dig a little deeper and identify problematic chemicals, while QCAT and GreenScreen® provide in-depth assessments.