Prospective environmental risk screening of seven advanced materials based on production volumes and aquatic ecotoxicity
Journal article, 2022
The number and volume of advanced materials being manufactured is increasing. In order to mitigate future impacts from such materials, assessment methods that can provide early indications of potential environmental risk are required. This paper presents a further development and testing of an environmental risk screening method based on two proxy measures: aquatic ecotoxicity and global annual production volumes. In addition to considering current production volumes, this further developed method considers potential future production volumes, thereby enabling prospective environmental risk screening. The proxy measures are applied to seven advanced materials: graphene, graphene oxide, nanocellulose, nanodiamond, quantum dots, nano-sized molybdenum disulfide, and MXenes. Only MXenes show high aquatic ecotoxicity, though the number of test results is still very limited. While current production volumes are relatively modest for most materials, several of the materials (graphene, graphene oxide, nanocellulose, nano-sized molybdenum disulfide, and MXenes) have the potential to become high-volume materials in the future. For MXenes, with both high aquatic ecotoxicity and high potential future production volumes, more detailed environmental risk assessments should be considered. For the other materials with high potential future production volumes, the recommendation is to continuously monitor their aquatic ecotoxicity data. Based on the application of the proxy measures combined with future scenarios for production volumes, we recommend this environmental risk screening method be used in the early development of advanced materials to prioritize which advanced materials should be subject to more detailed environmental assessments.