Benchmarking chemicals with GreenScreen® in TCO Certified

Of the thousands of chemicals available for commercial use, only about 1% have ever gone through testing to assess their effects on human health and the environment. In TCO Certified, we use the GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals to identify a pathway to safer alternatives to be used in certified products. GreenScreen offers an objective, scientific way of assessing these potential effects, and finding safer alternatives to the most hazardous substances.

Developed by US-based non-profit Clean Production Action, GreenScreen provides a structured approach to evaluating human health and environmental safety data for a variety of chemical substances. Once a substance is assessed in accordance with these risks, the GreenScreen methodology assigns it to one of five possible benchmarks, based on the level of concern.

Since 2015, TCO Certified has incorporated the use of GreenScreen to identify safer flame retardants that replace restricted halogenated substances. These safer alternatives are listed on the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List. In TCO Certified generation 8, we have added plasticizers to this process since we have identified safer alternatives to the four plasticizers currently restricted in RoHs, for use in certified products. We will also be assessing industrial cleaners and solvents process chemicals in accordance to GreenScreen with the goal to identify safer alternatives that can be used during manufacture .

For compliance with TCO Certified, a chemical substance included in a certified product must achieve a GreenScreen benchmark score of 2, 3 or 4.

FAQ – GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals

Answers to some common questions about GreenScreen are listed below. For complete information or to contact a licensed profiler, visit the Clean Production Action website.

1. Why is TCO Development interested in the GreenScreen methodology?

TCO Certified is aimed at guiding the IT industry towards safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals used today. In the current generation, we include requirements for GreenScreen assessments in an effort to provide more knowledge about the non-halogenated flame retardants used in the products we certify. For TCO Certified, generation 8, we propose expanding its use to plasticizers. GreenScreen is a method for comparative Chemical Hazard Assessment (CHA) and builds on the US EPA DfE approach and other national and international precedents (REACH, OECD, GHS). We have reviewed other assessment tools but selected GreenScreen since we consider it has several advantages:

  • Based on a structured decision logic
  • Looks at all constituents
  • Looks at several stages in the life cycle of the chemical such as transformation/breakdown products and also includes the environmental evaluation of those
  • Takes into account new studies/data and assessments are updated every few years. Benchmarks are only valid for 3 years
  • Considers 18 environmental and human health endpoints
  • Helps close data gaps by providing incentives for companies to produce data (chemicals missing important data are downgraded to a lower benchmark or listed as “Unspecified”)
  • Information on what we allow and not only what we ban
  • Information is freely and publicly accessible, transparent and peer reviewed
What are the 18 environmental and human health endpoints considered?
Environmental fate Environmental health Human health group I Human health group II Physical Hazards
Persistence [P] Acute Aquatic Toxicity [AA] Carcinogenicity [C] Acute Mammalian Toxicity [AT] Reactivity [Rx]
Bioaccumulation [B] Chronic Aquatic Toxicity [CA] Mutagenicity & Genotoxicty [M] Systemic Toxicity & Organ Effects (incl. Immunotoxicity [ST]) Flammability [F]
    Reproductive toxicity [R] Neurotoxicity [N]  
    Development Toxicity (incl. Development Neurotoxicty [D]) Sensitization [SnS]  
    Endocrine Activity [E] Respiratory Sensitization [SnR]  
      Skin Irritation [IrS]  
      Eye Irritation [IrE]  
3. Who may conduct GreenScreen evaluations?

For compliance with TCO Certified, all assessments and reassessments must be conducted by a licensed GreenScreen profiler. Licenced profilers are organizations approved by Clean Production Action, that have demonstrated expertise in toxicology and chemistry and that have the capacity to provide GreenScreen assessments on a consulting basis. Licensed profilers are kept up to date on all method revisions, and CPA audits their application of the method to ensure that it is being applied as intended.

4. What is the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List?

This is the list of substances approved for use in certified products. The list is dynamic, which allows new substances that have undergone a valid assessment to be added or for approved substances to come under reassessment in light of new scientific findings.

5. Why has TCO Development chosen benchmark 2 as the minimum level of acceptance?

GreenScreen ranks a chemical against 5 benchmarks. Benchmark 1 is a chemical of high concern and should be avoided. Benchmark U means the minimum data requirements aren’t fulfilled in order to make an assessment. The decision to set benchmark 2 as the minimum level of acceptance is based on current knowledge on available alternatives. Restricting substances that show a benchmark score 1 gives industry enough options for safer alternatives. As our list of preferred chemicals is filled we will of course see when there are enough alternatives with benchmark 3 or 4 for us to also progressively limit the use of benchmark 2 chemicals.

6. What if a chemical is benchmarked as U (unspecified)?

GreenScreen helps close data gaps by providing incentives for companies to produce data. Therefore, chemicals missing important data are downgraded to lower benchmarks or deemed as unspecified. When enough data gaps for a chemical are filled, then this will lead to other benchmark results.

7. Can a substance which is not on the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List be used in production while it is under assessment or substitution?

If a supplier needs time to assess a substance, an application for a limited period of time for its continued use is sent to TCO Development. In the application, the product model and chemical information must be included, as well as a time plan for submitting the assessment report or substituting the substance for a safer alternative on the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List. A quote from the GreenScreen licensed profiler may also be required as proof. TCO Development can provide the applicant with a template to apply for an extension period. Once an application is approved, certifications can be issued directly while waiting for the results from the profiler.

TCO Development may allow an extended period of one year to assess a substance (which normally takes 1-8 weeks) and to substitute it. If a substance has a benchmark 1 or U, then the supplier must send a time plan to TCO Development where they describe how they will substitute the substance and remove it from production. During the extended period, applicants can still keep their TCO Certified certificate. If special conditions apply to a substance then we require an explanation from applicants in order to further extend any certification period.

How to use GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals when applying for TCO Certified

How to use GreenScreenⓇ when applying for TCO Certified

  1. The applicant ensures that mandated plastic parts used in the product to be certified only use substances on the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List.
  2. If any substance is not on the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List, contact a licensed GreenScreen profiler listed on the CPA website.
    Prior to contacting a profiler it is recommended the applicant contacts. TCO Development to check that the substance is not already a benchmark 1 substance.
  3. A licensed profiler conducts a certified assessment of all relevant ingredients in a chemical product that are not already on the Accepted Substance List. An assessment report or summary of the substance assessment and result is sent to the applicant.
  4. The applicant sends a copy of the assessment report or summary of the assessment to TCO Development. Substances with benchmark 2 or higher are then added to the TCO Certified Accepted Substance List.


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