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Combining in Silico Tools with Multicriteria Analysis for Alternatives Assessment of Hazardous Chemicals: A Case Study of Decabromodiphenyl Ether Alternatives

Zheng, Ziye, Peters, Gregory M., Arp, Hans Peter H., Andersson, Patrik L.
Environmental science & technology 2019 v.53 no.11 pp. 6341-6351
bioaccumulation, case studies, databases, flame retardants, heat, multi-criteria decision making, risk, toxic substances
Alternatives assessment is applied for minimizing the risk of unintentionally replacing a hazardous chemical with another hazardous chemical. Central challenges are the diversity of properties to consider and the lack of high-quality experimental data. To address this, a novel alternatives assessment procedure was developed based on in silico data and multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) methods. As a case study, 16 alternatives to the flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether were considered. The hazard properties included persistence (P), bioaccumulation potential (B), toxicities (T), and mobility in water (M). Databases were consulted and 2866 experimental data points were collected for the target chemicals; however, these were mostly replicate data points for some hazard criteria for a subset of alternatives. Therefore, in silico data and three MCDA strategies were tested including heat mapping, multiattribute utility theory (MAUT), and Elimination Et Choix Traduisant la REalité (ELECTRE III). The heat map clearly showed that none of the target chemicals are hazard-free, whereas MAUT and ELECTRE III agreed on ranking the “least worst” choices. This study identified several challenges and the complexity in the alternatives assessment processes motivating more case studies combining in silico and MCDA approaches.