Toward Harmonizing Ecotoxicity Characterization in Life Cycle Impact Assessment
Journal article, 2018

Ecosystem quality is an important area of protection in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). Chemical pollution has adverse impacts on ecosystems on a global scale. To improve methods for assessing ecosystem impacts, the Life Cycle Initiative hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme established a task force to evaluate the state-of-the-science in modeling chemical exposure of organisms and the resulting ecotoxicological effects for use in LCIA. The outcome of the task force work will be global guidance and harmonization by recommending changes to the existing practice of exposure and effect modeling in ecotoxicity characterization. These changes will reflect the current science and ensure the stability of recommended practice. Recommendations must work within the needs of LCIA in terms of 1) operating on information from any inventory reporting chemical emissions with limited spatiotemporal information, 2) applying best estimates rather than conservative assumptions to ensure unbiased comparison with results for other impact categories, and 3) yielding results that are additive across substances and life cycle stages and that will allow a quantitative expression of damage to the exposed ecosystem. We describe the current framework and discuss research questions identified in a roadmap. Primary research questions relate to the approach toward ecotoxicological effect assessment, the need to clarify the method's scope and interpretation of its results, the need to consider additional environmental compartments and impact pathways, and the relevance of effect metrics other than the currently applied geometric mean of toxicity effect data across species. Because they often dominate ecotoxicity results in LCIA, we give metals a special focus, including consideration of their possible essentiality and changes in environmental bioavailability. We conclude with a summary of key questions along with preliminary recommendations to address them as well as open questions that require additional research efforts.

Ecosystem exposure

Species sensitivity distributions

Ecotoxicology

Environmental modeling

Life cycle impact assessment

Author

Dick de Zwart

Mikokaj Owsianiak

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Peter Fantke

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Laura Goldsteijn

Oliver Jolliet

University of Michigan

Martina G. Vijver

Leiden University

Tom McKone

University of California

Willie J.G.M Peijnenburg

Nico Van Straalen

Free University of Amsterdam

Alexi Ernstoff

Erwan Saouter

European Commission (EC)

Robert Dwyer

International Copper Association

Nicolo Aurisano

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Jane Bare

Thomas Backhaus

University of Gothenburg

Cecile Bulle

Université du Québec

Peter Chapman

Hanna Holmquist

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Leo Posthuma

Radboud University

Sandra Roos

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Diederik Schowanek

Procter and Gamble

Michael Hauschild

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

0730-7268 (ISSN)

Vol. 37 12 2955-2971

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Ecology

Environmental Sciences

DOI

10.1002/etc.4261

PubMed

30178491

More information

Latest update

9/3/2020 7