Prioritise – phase-out substance or priority risk-reduction substance?

Prioritising means that your company assesses whether your chemical products or articles contain hazardous substances that need to be replaced. It may also mean that you need to take measures to reduce the risk of the substances harming health and the environment. The substances in the database PRIO are divided into two priority levels: phase-out substances and priority risk-reduction substances. Phase-out substances are those substances that have the most hazardous properties, which we recommend that you, as far as possible, replace with less hazardous substances or alternative technical solutions. Priority risk-reduction substances are not as hazardous, but it is good to review how these substances are handled to reduce the risks of unnecessary exposure.

Crossroads, which way do I want to go?

Phase-out substance

Regarding substances that meet the phase-out criteria, the PRIO tool recommends the user to change to less hazardous substances or non-chemical alternatives or to use alternative methods to reduce of hazardous substances.

Priority risk-reduction substance

Regarding substances that fall within the criteria for priority risk-reduction, we recommend the user to review the risks in handling the intended use, both for human health and the environment.

To assess the risk of using a chemical, you need to consider two factors. On the one hand, the inherent properties of the chemical, i.e. the hazard, and on the other hand, the way in which the chemical is used or handled, i.e. the exposure.

Different properties give rise to different risk images in different situations. Therefore, it is important that you know how the substance is handled in the business. If the use of a priority risk-reduction substance results in a low overall health and environmental impact, it may be more important to replace another substance where the risk of damage to health and the environment is greater.

To determine if handling includes a risk, you should consider the entire life cycle of a product:

  1. Risks with chemicals involving the production
  2. Risks involving the user phase (may include several different steps)
  3. Risks to consider when the product or article becomes waste
  4. The risk associated with recycling
  5. Weighting of the risk

Evaluating of the risk

When assessing the combined risk, you need to consider both the hazardous properties of the substance and any risks in the handling of the substance during the entire life cycle. When assessing the weighted risk, it can be easier to sort substances under different risk levels. For example, you can work with the following risk levels:

  1. Low risk which may imply an acceptable use.
  2. Increased risk that should be further investigated and possibly needs to be addressed.
  3. High risk that requires direct actions.

Depending on the level of risk your substance or substances end up in, there are different ways to proceed. In general, you should review if

  • there is sufficient competence in the business to manage the risk.
  • it is possible to adjust the operation to minimize the risks (such as using relevant protective equipment during handling).

For substances associated with an unacceptable risk, phase-out or replacement should be considered.

Read more about analysing chemical risks in your business.

If you have found one or more substances in the business that in current use include a high or an increased risk, there are several ways to address the risks. Below are some examples.

  • There may be a need to change the product by changing the product development process or modifying the production method.
  • New technical solutions can be an alternative, for example new cleaning or protective equipment.
  • There may also be a need to inform the customer and have clear user manuals.

If you can find a way to reduce the risks through various measures, it is good to make a new assessment of the risks in the business to see if the management is acceptable.

If the risk after the measures taken still is unacceptable, or if it is economically or technically beneficial, you can consider phasing out the substance.



Low-risk substances do not require as immediate an action. However, keep in mind that if you continue using the substance you should continuously review if new research findings show that the substance is more hazardous than previously seen, and if that leads to a new classification. It is also good to regularly review the company's routines for risk reduction and to be aware of new research findings on alternative substances and technologies, changed production conditions or whether the product is used in a new way.

Your decision

PRIO wants to help your company prioritise substances to reduce the risks for you and the environment, but it is your company who has the responsibility and makes the decisions. Therefore, it is also good to link the chemical work to your company's internal priorities in the form of environmental policy or environmental goals or other relevant goals and strategies. Companies that replace hazardous chemicals with less hazardous ones contribute to a non-toxic circular economy and may also achieve competitive advantages.

Last published 22 March 2024