There is no proof that the EPA’s Design for the Environment program has cut use of hazardous chemicals, according to a report released by the agency’s inspector general, Bloomberg reports.
In addition, the agency can’t claim the program is cost-effective because it has no controls in place to measure cost-effectiveness.
In response to the report, the EPA has removed the cost-effectiveness claims from its website and will no longer report pounds of hazardous materials reduced through pollution prevention nor a percentage increase in the use of safer products.
Other responses by the EPA are included in the inspector general’s report, “EPA Can Help Consumers Identify Household and Other Products with Safer Chemicals by Strengthening Its ‘Design for the Environment’ Program.”
The labeling program currently allows more than 2,500 carpet cleaners, dish soap, floor care products, laundry detergent softeners and other consumer and institutional products to carry the logo. The logo means a qualified third party has verified that all the chemicals used to make that product are among the safest compounds available for the particular function they provide.
The program will change to track the number of products that have earned the Design for the Environment label and the number of chemicals that are named on its Safer Chemicals Ingredients List. However, the inspector general cautioned that these counts do not provide evidence that consumers are actually purchasing and using the products.
The inspector general also said the program’s logo does not adequately communicate to the consumer that the product is a safer one and may imply that the EPA is endorsing Design for the Environment-labeled products, which isn’t allowed.
In a response, the EPA said it is in the process of redesigning the logo.
A number of companies have embraced the Design for the Environment program as part of their sustainability efforts. Last year Wal-Mart announced it planned to begin to labeling its private brand cleaning products in accordance with the program.