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Keywords:

  • Alternatives analysis;
  • Alternatives assessment;
  • Chemicals;
  • Multi-criteria decision analysis;
  • Regulation

ABSTRACT

Regulators are implementing new programs that require manufacturers of products containing certain chemicals of concern to identify, evaluate, and adopt viable, safer alternatives. Such programs raise the difficult question for policymakers and regulated businesses of which alternatives are “viable” and “safer.” To address that question, these programs use “alternatives analysis,” an emerging methodology that integrates issues of human health and environmental effects with technical feasibility and economic impact. Despite the central role that alternatives analysis plays in these programs, the methodology itself is neither well-developed nor tailored to application in regulatory settings. This study uses the case of Pb-based bar solder and its non-Pb-based alternatives to examine the application of 2 multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) methods to alternatives analysis: multi-attribute utility analysis and outranking. The article develops and evaluates an alternatives analysis methodology and supporting decision-analysis software for use in a regulatory context, using weighting of the relevant decision criteria generated from a stakeholder elicitation process. The analysis produced complete rankings of the alternatives, including identification of the relative contribution to the ranking of each of the highest level decision criteria such as human health impacts, technical feasibility, and economic feasibility. It also examined the effect of variation in data conventions, weighting, and decision frameworks on the outcome. The results indicate that MCDA can play a critical role in emerging prevention-based regulatory programs. Multi-criteria decision analysis methods offer a means for transparent, objective, and rigorous analysis of products and processes, providing regulators and stakeholders with a common baseline understanding of the relative performance of alternatives and the trade-offs they present. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2013;9:652–664. © 2013 SETAC