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Safer and Sustainable by Design – Life Cycle and Sustainability Analysis

In 2017, the global production of synthetic chemicals amounted to 2.3 billion tons. To date, about 193 million chemicals have been identified[1] , but only 40-60,000 are commercialized. However, it has been estimated that only 6,000 substances account for about 99% of the total volume of substances placed on the market. Recent research suggests that the planetary limit for such substances has been exceeded, i.e., the limits that must not be exceeded in order not to irreversibly disturb the balance of the planet as we have known it for about 10,000 years. This situation is not likely to improve, as the production of substances is expected to double again by 2030.

To address this issue, the EU Commissions is proposing a new framework called ‘Safe and Sustainable by design’ chemicals (SSbd), by promoting “a holistic approach that integrates safety, circularity and functionality of chemicals, materials, products and processes throughout their entire life cycle, minimizing their environmental footprint”. It consists into an integration of safety-based with a life-cycle based considerations to ensure sustainability along the value chain. The new framework proposed 6 steps:  hazard assessment, human health and safety aspects at manufacturing and processing of the substance, human health and environment at use phase, life cycle assessment cradle-to-grave, social and economic assessment. Each step leads to a scoring system and all scores are then combined in the final assessment into one single number. To be considered a SSbd-chemical, the substance must have the following characteristic:

1.     Not be classified for human, environment, and safety properties according to the CLP legislation,

2.     All human and environment risk characterization ratios at manufacturing, production and use phase must be below 1, under a 1000 tons per year usage scenario (the Chesar or ECETOC-Tra risk assessment tools are used for this purpose).

3.     The life cycle assessment should demonstrate a 20% benefit (aggregated sustainability score) compared to similar chemicals having the same performance.

The life cycle assessment is based on the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) recommendation and the impact of chemicals on human and aquatic ecosystem health is assessed using the USEtox model. The presentation will present the overall SSbd scheme, with a focus on the LCA and the USEtox model.


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