TURI » Our Work » Research » Alternatives Assessment  

If alternatives can be shown to be safer and also technically and economically feasible, then we don’t need to quantify the risk.
- Pam Eliason, Industry Research Program Manager, TURI

Alternatives Assessment

Finding and adopting safer alternatives to toxic chemicals is a core aspect of toxics use reduction.

An alternatives assessment looks comprehensively at the uses of chemicals of concern, and the availability of safer, technically feasible and affordable alternatives. These alternatives may be chemical substitutions, but may also be modifications to processes or product redesigns that facilitate the shift to safer processes and products.

The Principles of Alternatives Assessments are:

  • Reduce Hazard
  • Minimize Exposure
  • Use Best Available Information
  • Require Disclosure and Transparency
  • Resolve Trade-Offs
  • Take Action

TURI collaborates with academic partners, other US state and federal agencies, and international organizations to develop and refine alternatives assessment methods.

Supporting Research to Identify Safer Alternatives

  • Since its initial work defining the alternatives assessment process as part of the 2006 Five Chemicals Alternatives Assessment Study, TURI has conducted additional assessments, and presented on our work as well as on the methodology of TUR and alternatives assessment in numerous venues. 
  • TURI's Lab utilizes the Pollution Prevention Options Assessment System (P2OASys) as part of its work to identify specific safer alternatives to toxic cleaners and surface finishing formulations used by companies, institutions and households.
  • TURI provides academic research grants to develop safer alternatives for specific uses of toxic chemicals

TURI Alternatives Assessment Collaborations

Lowell Center for Sustainable Production

The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production has developed its Alternatives Assessment framework with the goal of creating an open source framework for the relatively quick assessment of safer and more socially just alternatives to chemicals, materials, and products of concern.  TURI collaborates with the Lowell Center, convening state and federal agency stakeholders to promote the adoption of alternatives assessments in a coordinated way.

Chemical Commons

In October 2012, TURI participated in a meeting with representatives from industry, government, academia and advocacy groups entitled Building a Commons: Data Sharing,  Alternatives Assessment and Communities of Practice. One key outcome of this meeting the creation of a common definition and set of principles for chemicals alternatives assessment. The Principles are presented above and in detail in the Alternatives Assessment Resources box to the right.

Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse
Alternatives assessment framework
Alternatives assessment framework

A number of states have been working together to share resources, and to draft common language for assessing the availability of safer alternatives for chemicals of concern. TURI led the effort by this group to create a protocol for conducting safer alternatives assessments that is being used to inform state government policies and technical assistance practices.  In addition, IC2 has published the IC2 Alternatives Assessment Guide that provides detailed guidance on the various elements of an alternatives assessment.  The Guide was designed to be very comprehensive and includes three ways in which an AA can be conducted. It can be accessed through the IC2 website.

European Union Substitution Portal

SUBSPORT has created an Internet portal that constitutes a state-of-the-art resource on safer alternatives to the use of hazardous chemicals. The portal is intended to


support companies in fulfilling substitution requirements of EU legislation, such as those specified under the REACH authorization procedure, the Water Framework Directive or the Chemical Agents Directive.  TURI and the Lowell Center provided guidance to the partners that created this powerful portal.