A Framework and Pilot Tool for the Risk-based Prioritization and Grouping of Consumer Products that Contain Chemicals and Emerging Materials

I. Linkov, T. Rycroft, B. Trump, A. Ganin
US Army Engineer Research and Development Center Environmental Lab (ERDC-EL),
United States

Keywords: emerging materials, engineered nanomaterials, advanced materials, risk assessment


An increasing number of consumer products utilize emerging materials (e.g., engineered nanomaterials, advanced materials, and specialty chemicals) for their advanced properties that confer improved performance over conventional counterparts. These same emerging materials (EMs), however, are often poorly understood from a human health and safety standpoint due to a dearth of available hazard information and uncertain relationships between exposure and adverse human health outcomes. Additionally, many of these EMs are integrated into products using desktop consumer three-dimensional (3D) printers that result in new consumer exposure profiles. Because the integration of EMs into consumer products is expected to occur more quickly than their health and safety impacts can be thoroughly evaluated, regulatory agencies like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) – a small, independent federal agency responsible for protecting consumers from unreasonable risks associated with product use – will require the ability to rapidly screen and group a diverse array of EM-enabled consumer products based on their potential risks to consumers. Such prioritization would allow efficient allocation of limited resources for subsequent testing and evaluation of high risk products and materials. To enable this grouping and prioritization for further testing, we developed a framework that establishes a prioritization score by evaluating an EM-enabled product’s potential hazard and exposure (including emerging exposure pathways from 3D printing), as well as additional considerations of regulatory importance. We integrate the framework into a pilot-version software tool and, using a hypothetical case study, we demonstrate that the tool can effectively rank EM-enabled consumer products – as well as products that contain traditional chemicals – and can be adjusted for use by agencies with different priorities. The proposed decision-analytical framework and pilot-version tool presented here could enable a regulatory agency like the CPSC to triage reported safety concerns more effectively and allocate limited resources more efficiently.