Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Advancements in Life Cycle Human Exposure and Toxicity Characterization

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Advancements in Life Cycle Human Exposure and Toxicity Characterization

Article excerpt

Introduction

Toxicity Impacts: Seeking Harmonization and Global Guidance

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized method to assess and compare the various potential environmental impacts attributable to chemical emissions and resources used along full product and service life cycles (ISO 2006). LCA aims to comprehensively address potentially adverse environmental outcomes using "characterization factors," including human toxicity impacts from exposure to chemical substances over the entire product life cycles. By identifying chemical emission and exposure hotspots along product life cycles and the most efficient technologies to address these hotspots, LCA also helps to achieve important targets of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (http://sustainabledevelopment.un. org/sdgs). To analyze and compare trade-offs among different alternatives or scenarios, LCA works with representative situations, using best estimates rather than conservative assumptions in model and parameter selection (Fantke et al. 2018; Frischknecht and Jolliet 2016). In order to cover the full life cycle with information available from chemical emission inventories, LCA must often work with spatial and temporal averages (Hauschild et al. 2008).

Human health afffected by disease burden attributable to chemical substances is an important area of protection in the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase of LCA, but it is also a key component of other assessment frameworks, including risk assessment, chemical alternatives assessment, and health impact assessment (Fantke and Ernstoff 2018). The Life Cycle Initiative, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, is expanding its guidance on human toxicity impacts from exposure to chemical substances, and it convened the Human Toxicity Task Force to address this issue (Frischknecht et al. 2016; Jolliet et al. 2014, 2018; Verones et al. 2017). The task force includes leading experts from academia, industry, and public health institutions who have identified two major challenges--expanding exposure assessments to address near-field exposures and improving dose-response modeling. All authors of the present paper are members of the task force, and all related statements (e.g., "we observe"; "our agreement") are those of the entire task force (and not only those of the author list or a single set of workshop attendees).

Studies, such as different analyses of U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey urine biomonitoring samples, reveal the presence of exogenous chemicals (or their metabolites) at detectable levels attributable to consumer products (e.g., Wambaugh et al. 2014). This observation has motivated a call to adequately characterize the constituents of consumer products for potential toxicity (Landrigan et al. 2018). Exposures to chemical substances in consumer products can occur over the entire product life cycle. This includes, for example, exposure to mining wastes during raw material extraction (Hauschild et al. 2018; Hendrickson et al. 2006); worker exposure during the manufacturing of plastics and other materials (Demou et al. 2009); exposure during product use--from personal care products (PCPs), building materials, toys, cleaning products, etc. (Fantke et al. 2016; Shin et al. 2017); and exposure from releases into the environment at the end of product life (Hauschild et al. 2018). Exposure pathways and magnitudes are not only substance but also product specific. For example, dermal exposure varies as a function of the duration of application of washed-off (e.g., shampoo) vs. leave-on PCPs. There have been recent proposals to track cumulative exposures and health impacts for these products (Fantke et al. 2015b; Zimmerman and Anastas 2015). To our knowledge, there are currently no methods available to analyze specific substance-product combinations over entire product life cycles in order to identify trade-offs among exposures at different life cycle stages and compare with other types of impacts, such as ecosystem damage and climate change. …

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