Personal care products (PCPs) are used globally wherever there is human activity, and are typically emitted to the environment in wastewater under normal use. Regulators and scientists have thus begun focusing on PCPs as a potential water quality concern. PCP manufacturers are increasingly motivated to leverage available data on potential exposure and hazards to the natural environment to guide sustainable decision making and minimize the potential for products to cause adverse environmental effects. We describe a novel algorithm to: select data on environmental exposure and hazard potential relevant to PCP ingredients after use, evaluate and interpret those data, and translate the information to a single numeric score usable by non-specialists to incorporate environmental protection goals into PCP sustainability decision making. The algorithm has been implemented as the Global Aquatic Ingredient Assessment (GAIA) database tool, incorporating information on environmental persistence, bioaccumulation potential, aquatic toxicity of the parent compound and degradants, excess toxicity from ecological endocrine disruption effects, and the potential for producing photochemical smog. GAIA quantifies environmental hazard potential using an algorithm allowing it to be used as a risk surrogate for PCP product use. GAIA data are also used in environmental risk assessments with product-specific exposure data as a final check during product reformulation or as a post hoc measure of progress toward corporate sustainability goals. Scoring results are demonstrated for eight representative substances: benzophenone-4, ethylene diamine tetraacetate salts, ethylhexylglycerin, menthol, methyl salicylate, musk xylene, phenoxyethanol, and zinc oxide. Case studies show how GAIA scores, used as a front-line decision tool, led to environmental risk reductions in two cases: a newly developed surfactant and a reformulated cleansing product.
Saxe, J. K., Predale, R. A., & Sharples, R. (2018). Reducing the environmental risks of formulated personal care products using an end-of-life scoring and ranking system for ingredients: Method and case studies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 180, 263–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.01.140