Including Pathogen Risk in Life Cycle Assessment of Wastewater Management. 2. Quantitative Comparison of Pathogen Risk to Other Impacts on Human Health
Journal article, 2014
Resource recovery from sewage sludge has the potential to save natural resources, but the potential risks connected to human exposure to heavy metals, organic micropollutants, and pathogenic microorganisms attract stakeholder concern. The purpose of the presented study was to include pathogen risks to human health in life cycle assessment (LCA) of wastewater and sludge management systems, as this is commonly omitted from LCAs due to methodological limitations. Part 1 of this article series estimated the overall pathogen risk for such a system with agricultural use of the sludge, in a way that enables the results to be integrated in LCA. This article (part 2) presents a full LCA for two model systems (with agricultural utilization or incineration of sludge) to reveal the relative importance of pathogen risk in relation to other potential impacts on human health. The study showed that, for both model systems, pathogen risk can constitute an important part (in this study up to 20%) of the total life cycle impacts on human health (expressed in disability adjusted life years) which include other important impacts such as human toxicity potential,global warming potential, and photochemical oxidant formation potential.