5 most asked questions about Chemical Hazard Assessments 

Betsy Murry has worked in Sustainable Chemistry for over 7 yearshere’s what she gets asked the most about our Chemical Hazard Assessments. 

by Betsy Murry

I’ve heard a wide range of questions from our contacts about chemical assessments, from introductory questions about the different types of assessments and what they mean to specific details about how our team conducts Chemical Hazard Assessments.  

Here are the top five questions we get asked about chemical assessments.

1. What is the difference between list screening, hazard assessment, risk assessment?

List Screening involves screening your chemicals of interest against specific lists of chemicals. Those lists could be based on potential hazards, uses, regulatory status, chemical groups, or even known safer chemicals. The primary goal being to easily identify chemicals based on the specific list criteria. The most common list screening question we see clients focusing on is: “Is my chemical regulated or restricted based on priority lists for my industry, product type, or customer requirements?” When a chemical appears on a list, it may require further evaluation, regulatory or reporting action, or even reformulation/reconsideration.   

In some cases, there are published lists that outline known or suspected problematic chemicals based on specific hazard characteristics – like carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxicants. This should not be confused with a chemical hazard assessment. We like to call this “list-based hazard” assessment.  


Chemical Hazard Assessments focus on evaluating the intrinsic properties of chemicals to determine their potential to cause harm to human health or the environment and can serve to help identify and compare safer alternatives and make more proactive decisions about chemicals rather than relying on a reactive approach of making decisions after a chemical has been restricted or regulated.  

Chemical Hazard Assessments typically involve the comprehensive review and analysis of available scientific data on a chemical’s toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation potential, and other relevant properties – specifically around the impact on human health and environmental fate. This may include studies on acute and chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and other endpoints. Hazard assessments often result in the classification and labeling of chemicals according to their potential hazards. 


Exposure and Risk assessments evaluate the likelihood and magnitude of human or environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals and assess the associated risks. This information can be used to estimate the potential adverse effects of chemical exposure on human health or the environment and to inform risk management decisions. 

Exposure and risk assessments integrate information on chemical hazards with data on exposure pathways, usage patterns, environmental fate, and other criteria. These assessments quantify exposure levels and potential risks through various routes such as inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. Risk assessments may include factors such as exposure duration, frequency, and population susceptibility to estimate the likelihood and severity of adverse effects. 

When I first started in this space, someone used the following example to explain the difference between list screening, CHAs, and exposure and risk assessments:



What I’ve come to appreciate is that at some point the chemical is used at 100% and in different forms in the development/product lifecycle. When we have an opportunity to use safer chemicals based on the innate characteristics of those chemicals, we can better protect workers, consumers, and the environment regardless of unforeseen or unmitigated risk factors.  

2. Isn’t an SDS enough?

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), also known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in some regions, provide valuable information about the hazards of chemical substances and how to safely handle, store, and dispose of them. While SDSs are an essential component of chemical safety management, they may not be sufficient on their own to fully understand the impact of chemicals.  

SDSs primarily focus on providing information related to the health and physical hazards of chemicals, including toxicity, flammability, reactivity, and potential environmental impacts. However, they may not cover all aspects of a chemical’s lifecycle, such as its environmental fate, persistence, bioaccumulation potential, or long-term ecological effects. 

Because of the standardized format for SDSs, we often see that data included is often overly simplified or simply omitted, especially if they aren’t relevant to the specific context or application.  

In addition, there is often new data emerging about hazards associated with chemicals. SDSs are static documents that are not always consistently updated. Therefore, they may not reflect the latest scientific knowledge or emerging concerns related to the chemical’s safety profile.  

In summary, while SDSs are valuable tools for communicating the hazards of chemicals and promoting safe handling practices, they are not comprehensive documents and should be used in conjunction with other sources of information and expertise to fully understand the impact of chemicals (or even what chemicals are included in a product) and manage associated risks effectively. 

3. If you use lists when doing a hazard assessment, isn’t it just a detailed list screening?

List screening is often used as an initial step in the Chemical Hazard Assessment process to identify chemicals already identified by authoritative agencies as having certain human health or environmental fate attributes. In many instances, more information is known about chemicals than has been added to a specific list so list screening alone can be lacking.

Chemical Hazard Assessments, while they include list screening as an initial step, go much further in terms of evaluating or understanding the toxicity or impact of chemicals on humans and the environment, incorporating data collection, hazard identification, dose-response assessment, data integration, weight of evidence, and peer review to generate robust conclusions about the risks associated with chemical exposures.

4. What does the Chemical Hazard Assessment process include?

In a Chemical Hazard Assessment, data on the selected chemicals are collected and evaluated to characterize their intrinsic properties and potential hazards. This includes information on acute and chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, ecotoxicity, environmental fate, persistence, bioaccumulation potential, and other relevant endpoints. 

Hazard assessments involve integrating data from multiple sources, including experimental studies, epidemiological data, computational models, and expert judgment, to assess the overall hazard profile of a chemical. 

Toxicologists will typically evaluate uncertainties associated with data gaps, variability in study results, extrapolation of findings, and other sources of uncertainty when summarizing their findings into a CHA.  

Many hazard assessments undergo peer review by independent experts to ensure scientific rigor, transparency, and credibility in the evaluation process. Peer review provides additional assurance of the quality and validity of the assessment results. 

Overall, hazard assessments like those completed with our GHS+ Hazard Assessment methodology provide a structured and scientifically sound approach for evaluating chemical hazards in accordance with the GHS and additional criteria, supporting informed decision-making and risk management to protect human health and the environment. 

5. What value do chemical hazard assessments provide that I can’t get from list screening?

In general, Chemical Hazard Assessments offer a more comprehensive evaluation of the potential risks associated with exposure to chemicals. While list screening may identify chemicals of concern based on predetermined criteria or lists, hazard assessments delve deeper into the intrinsic properties of chemicals to assess their toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation potential, and other hazard characteristics.

This comprehensive evaluation helps to identify specific hazards associated with each chemical and understand the nature and severity of potential adverse effects on human health and the environment allowing users to understand the impact of chemicals more fully to make more confident, safer chemicals decisions that have a less negative impact on humans and the environment.

We’ve done the work, to make your job easier…

Behind each green, yellow, or red traffic light Chemical Hazard Assessment result in our SciveraLENS platform, are dozens of hours of research, computer modeling, data analysis, expert judgment, and quality assurance (QA) review for data integrity. 

Via our GHS+ Chemical Hazard Assessment Framework, we identify chemicals for their properties, in relation to human and environmental health and screen against lists that may reveal problematic characteristics. Our experts keep over 480 lists updated in the platform, and our toxicologists process Endpoint Hazard Assessments using a broad selection of accepted chemical hazard data resources. 

In short, we’ve gone to great lengths to help organizations understand exactly what chemicals are recommended for sustainable choices and which are best avoided. 

Learn about our GHS+ CHA Framework

Our team conducts Chemical Hazard Assessments utilizing this robust framework of data requirements, criteria, peer-review, and assessor qualifications.

Find out more