Alternatives analysis is an emerging scientific method for identifying and determining the viability of safer substitutes for hazardous chemicals, products, or industrial processes. Alternatives analysis is a two-step process.
(1) In the first step, known as alternatives assessment, potential alternatives are identified and compared to the hazardous product/process with respect to a set of key criteria including: health and safety impacts, environmental impacts, technical performance, and economic cost. While alternatives assessment is largely a data-driven, objective process, it involves significant application of best professional judgment and discretion. In setting default assumptions (e.g., is data from peer review journals more reliable than trade journals), it also involves value choices which are often not apparent.
(2) The second component of alternatives analysis is alternatives evaluation, conducted after the alternatives assessment is completed. It is a largely subjective balancing of the respective attributes (e.g., lower toxicity vs. higher cost) of the baseline product/process and the alternatives, with the goal of identifying safer substitutes. While inherently value-based, a number of scientific decision-making tools have been developed to assist policy makers and stakeholders in identifying whether at least one viable substitute exists or, among a series of alternatives, identifying the safest substitutes.
A limited but growing number of private firms have begun to use alternatives analysis as a strategy for determining the viability of safer substitutes. In addition, its application to making public policy choices has been increasing in the area of environmental planning, such as watershed management, land-use development, habitat preservation, and hazardous waste remediation. While alternatives analysis has been successfully used in helping phase out hazardous chemicals, it has yet to be systematically integrated into regulatory decision-making.
For an overview of STPP's approach to alternatives analysis go to Alternatives Analysis Presentation.
For a press release on recent funds that STPP received to develop regulatory alternatives analysis methodologies go to: http://www.publichealthtrust.org/
Click here to see what STPP is doing in this area.