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What Does the DfE Label Mean?

EPA allows safer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label. This label enables consumers to quickly identify and choose products that are safer for them, their families, and the environment.

When you see the DfE logo on a product it means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that—based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment—the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.

Only products that meet DfE’s Standard for Safer Products (PDF) (43 pp, 726 KB) are allowed to display the DfE label. The manufacturers of these products have invested heavily in research, development, and reformulation to ensure that their ingredients and finished product line up on the green end of the health and environmental spectrum while maintaining or improving product performance.

As of 2013, EPA has allowed about 2,500 products to carry the DfE label. A list of qualifying products can be found at www.epa.gov/dfe/products.

For more information, please see the DfE Standard for Safer Products and Criteria for Safer Chemical Ingredients webpage.

How do I know that products with the DfE label are safer?

Looking carefully at product ingredients
DfE begins its review with information that scientists already know about each ingredient, such as how it works in a product and how it affects living things. When that information doesn't tell the full story, EPA looks at an ingredient's chemical structure - its components and shape - to understand how it could affect the environment and people. A chemical's structure can tell a lot about how the chemical will behave and what types of effects it may have when it comes in contact with people or the environment. DfE uses the special skills of the scientists at EPA who have studied chemicals for many years.

The DfE label can only be used on the safest products
DfE considers an ingredient's characteristics relative to other chemicals in the same class. That is, solvents are compared to other solvents, and surfactants (wetting agents) are compared with other surfactants. Before DfE allows the logo on a product, DfE makes sure that only the safest ingredients from each class are used.  These ingredients must meet DfE’s Criteria for Safer Chemical Ingredients.  For example, if a DfE-recognized product contains a surfactant, then that surfactant will not be toxic to human health and it will biodegrade readily to non-polluting degradation products; surfactants in conventional products can biodegrade slowly or biodegrade to more toxic and persistent chemicals, which threaten aquatic life.

Protecting your family and the environment
When you use a cleaning product, for example, it is released into the environment—inside your home, down the drain to a water treatment plant, or directly to the outdoors as in the case of boat cleaners. Adults come in contact with cleaning products on a regular basis, as do children who are often the most exposed when they crawl on the floor. Some consumers may prefer cleaning products that are inherently safer or do not irritate sensitive skin. Others may prefer products that break down quickly and do not harm fish or that are safer for use around family pets. The DfE logo is an easy way to know you are choosing a product that is as safe as possible for both people and the environment.

Expect the safest possible ingredients
When the DfE logo appears on a product, it means that the DfE review team has screened each ingredient in the product for potential human health and environmental effects and that--based on current hazard and risk information, the latest models and predictive tools, and expert scientific judgment--the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.

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