Ingredients for a Safer (Chemical) Recipe

EPA's Safer Chemical Ingredients List helps manufacturers formulate products that are safer for families and the environment.

EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients Lists helps manufacturers formulate products that are safer for families and the environment.

Have you ever wondered what chemical ingredients are in those cleaning products we all keep under the sink or in the garage?  Here at EPA, we want to ensure that the products Americans are using in theirs homes are as safe as possible.

Until recently, choosing ingredients to make a safer and effective product has been challenging for manufacturers, requiring lots of research and educated guessing.  No single resource existed to help manufacturers select safer ingredients.

EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program has taken much of the guesswork out of safer ingredient selection by making available the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). EPA just added close to 50 chemicals (including 40 fragrance chemicals) to this dynamic database bringing the tallies to nearly 650 chemicals in all.  The list will continue to be updated with chemicals that meet the DfE safer ingredient criteria in key ingredient classes such as solvents, surfactants, and fragrances.  These ingredients help make products including household cleaners, laundry detergents, car care products, floor finishes and even a firefighting foam. 

So how exactly would a manufacturer use SCIL? Say your company wants to reformulate or manufacture a new all-purpose cleaner to be safer without compromising on the quality and effectiveness your customers expect. Ingredients in the formulation would include chemicals like surfactants and solvents that help with cleaning, and customer-appeal components, like fragrances and colorants.

Any manufacturer can search within each SCIL component class—solvents, fragrances, etc.—to assemble a set of ingredients that satisfies the performance and even customer-appeal characteristics they would like their product to have—including being safer for families and the environment. The list is especially useful to small manufacturers who can use it to identify safer ingredients for formulating safer products.

When manufacturers make safer chemical-based products with SCIL ingredients, the path to EPA/DfE safer product recognition will be much smoother and potentially less costly. When a product earns the DfE label, purchasers can be assured that they will be protecting human health and environment with the safest possible ingredients, without sacrificing product performance.

Whether you are a manufacturer looking for ingredients to formulate safer products, or a purchaser wondering about the ingredient list on a cleaning or other chemical product— SCIL helps take the guess work out of these important choices.

Learn more about SCIL: www.epa.gov/dfe/saferingredients

Jim Jones is the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He is responsible for managing the office which implements the nation’s pesticide, toxic chemical, and pollution prevention laws. Jim’s career with EPA spans more than 26 years. He has an M.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a B.A. from the University of Maryland, both in Economics.