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Substitution of chemical substances and evaluation of alternatives

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​COWI uses its vast knowledge of chemicals to identify and evaluate possible alternatives for hazardous chemicals.

​More than 30,000 chemical substances, in addition to a huge number of chemical intermediates, are marketed in the EU in quantities above 1 tonne per year. A number of the chemicals that we use today have unsolicited effects on humans and the environment.

Restriction of hazardous chemicals

To reduce the undesirable consequences of chemicals problematic chemicals are being replaced with less problematic chemicals or technical solutions. This replacement procedure is currently being carried out through procedures under EU Chemicals Regulation, REACH, other legislation or through voluntary initiatives in companies.

COWI has assisted national environmental authorities; the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Commission with assessing alternatives to substances that authorities wish to limit. We also assist private companies in relation to substitution.

Knowledge of chemical substances

Substitution projects typically involve a team of experts with thorough knowledge of: 

  • The technical characteristics of chemicals.
  • Assessing the health and environmental effects of substances and possible alternatives.
  • Assessing socio-economic impacts of restrictions on chemical substances where relevant for a given project.


COWI's assessments and evaluations have formed the basis for regulatory action to limit some of the most problematic chemicals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, phthalates and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Assessment of alternatives

We also apply our extensive knowledge of chemicals when we assist companies in identifying alternatives to the chemicals or materials that companies want to replace. This can include identifying and assessing alternatives.

Life cycle-based CO2 analysis

In the consideration of substitution, several environmental parameters must be taken into consideration. COWI has extensive experience with the use of life-cycle assessments for evaluation of substitution and has in recent years been active in the development of life cycle CO2 analyses, in which the so-called CO2 footprint (carbon footprint) of a material or product is calculated.

LAST UPDATED: 14.12.2016