PerspectiveChemistry

Toward substitution with no regrets

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Science  13 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6227, pp. 1198-1199
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0812

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Summary

Vast numbers of synthetic chemicals are used in everyday consumer products. Many are safe, but some can have unintended biological or environmental effects. For example, phthalates are widely used to increase the flexibility of plastics but also disrupt hormonal balance (1). Organophosphates are highly effective insect repellents but cause severe neurotoxicity to mammals (2). In many cases, chemicals of concern have been replaced by other chemicals that are functionally equivalent and believed to be of less concern (see the photo). However, the need for expedient substitution can lead to the use of chemicals that are no less harmful than those they replace. How can such “regrettable substitutions” be avoided?