Integrating economic input-output life cycle assessment with risk assessment for a screening-level analysis

Document Type


Publication Date



Goal, Scope, and Background: The paper describes the integration of the economic input-output life cycle assessment (EIO-LCA) model and the environmental fate and transport model (CHEMGL) with a risk assessment tool. Utilizing the EIO-LCA, instead of a traditional LCA, enables a rapid, screening-level analysis of an emerging chemical of concern, decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE). The risk assessment in this study is evaluated based on the mass of chemical released, estimated concentrations, exposure, and chemical toxicity. Methods: The relative risk from ten economic sectors identified within the EIO-LCA model, 55 chemicals utilized in those sectors and DecaBDE along with four potential DecaBDE breakdown products, were evaluated for the life cycle stages and exposure pathways. The relative risk (expressed as toluene equivalents) of the different chemicals, sectors, and life cycle stages were compared to assess those representing the greatest overall relative risks to humans (via inhalation and ingestion) and fish. Results: The greatest overall risk to human health resulted from the manufacturing and production stages. For fish, the manufacturing stage represented virtually all of the risk. Of the 56 chemicals evaluated, DecaBDE represented the majority of the total risk to humans. However, DecaBDE posed the least risk compared to its potential breakdown products. Discussion: The risk to humans from ingestion, which represented the greatest risk, from the production, manufacturing, and consumption stages can be controlled and reduced through various safety precautions in the workplace. Additionally, the increasing concentration of DecaBDE in anaerobic compartments represents a threat to humans and fish via the higher risk DecaBDE breakdown products. Conclusions: Overall, the manufacturing and production life cycle stages pose the greatest risk to humans and fish. The sediment compartment received the highest DecaBDE concentration for the production, manufacturing, and consumption stages. This case study demonstrates that the integrated EIO-LCA with risk assessment is suitable for screening-level analysis of emerging chemicals due to rapid life cycle inventory analysis. Recommendations: The production and manufacturing stages allow for greater industry control and government regulation, compared to the consumption stage, because there are fewer point sources. This integrated life cycle methodology may allow chemical designers to evaluate each stage and assess areas where risks can be minimized. © Springer-Verlag 2008.

Publication Title

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment