G-32 (Buildings) / G-30 (Products) Human toxicity and ecotoxicity indicators

Aspect G-32 (Buildings) / G-30 (Products) Human toxicity and ecotoxicity indicators
LCIA methodologies usually include midpoint or endpoint indicators for three area of protection: resources, human health and ecosystem. For the two last areas of protection, different indicators are currently available to assess the ecotoxicity and toxicity effects related to a product or a building life cycle. They classify the multimedia fate of chemicals into ecological compartments such as air, water and soil. On the one hand, accounting for toxicity and ecotoxicity effects allows a more comprehensive assessment in terms of the completeness of the set of indicators. On the other hand, these two impact categories are subject to very high uncertainties. Several indicators have been developed by the LCA community, which can lead to different conclusions [Van Caneghem 2010].Should toxicity and ecotoxicity indicators be used in an LCA of buildings?

related study objective

stand-alone LCA comparative assertion

related study phase

goal and scope definition inventory analysis (LCI) impact assessment (LCIA) interpretation reporting

relevant for

new buildings existing buildings building products screening LCA simplified LCA complete LCA
Provisions Adopt provision of the indicators mentioned in the EN 15804 and EN 15978 standards. These do not include toxicity or ecotoxicity methods, because there is so far no scientifically agreed method available.Yet, if the goal and scope of the study mention the use of an LCIA indicator for toxicity and ecotoxicity, the indicator that is used for the assessment needs to be described.
Rules from:
EN 15978:
11. Calculation of the environmental indicators
“Note: Indicators for which there is no scientifically agreed calculation method within the context of LCA e.g. human health, ecotoxicity, biodiversity, land use are not included”

8 Life cycle impact assessment – calculating LCIA results
Provisions: 8.2 Calculation of LCIA results
ILCD Handbook: Recommendations for life cycle impact assessment in the European context

3.3. Human toxicity
Existing methods for human toxicity aspects that can be used at the midpoint and endpoint level include: USEtox [Rosenbaum 2008] ReCiPe [Huijbregts 2009], IMPACT2002+ [Jolliet 2003] TRACI [Bare 2003], EDIP [Potting 2005], CML 2002 [Huijbregts 2000] and MEEuP [Kemna 2005]

ILCD states that “The use of USEtox as multimedia model, combining chemical fate and exposure with toxicological data, is recommended for midpoint indicators” for human toxicity.

ILCD states that “For the endpoint characterization, it is proposed as an initial basis to apply the most recent values that are proposed by Huijbregts et al. (2005a) using disability adjusted life years (DALYs)”

3.3.5 Discussion on uncertainties and the importance of spatial-temporal differentiation

3.9 Ecotoxicity

Existing methods for ecotoxicity aspects that can be used at the midpoint level include three groups according to their fate modelling:

 1. Full multimedia fate modelling: USEtox [Rosenbaum 2008], ReCiPe [Huijbregts 2009], IMPACT2002+ [Jolliet 2003], TRACI [Bare 2003],

2. Partial fate modelling – Environmental key properties: EDIP

3. No fate modelling: Swiss Ecoscarcity [Frischknecht 2008] and MEEuP [Kemna 2005]

ILCD states that “USEtox is preferred as the recommended default method for the midpoint evaluation of freshwater ecotoxicity impacts. This is equally consistent with the model recommended for toxicity impacts for humans. It results from a consensus building effort amongst related modellers and, hence, the underlying principles reflect common and agreed recommendations from these experts.” ILCD states that “No available method is recommended to address marine and terrestrial ecotoxicity.”

Endpoint level for ecotoxicity includes: EPS2000 [Steen 1999], ReCiPe [Huijbregts 2009] and IMPACT 2002+ [Jolliet 2003].

3.9.4 Discussion on uncertainties and the importance of spatial differentiation

The LCA practitioner in the building sector should be aware of the existing and recommended LCIA methods for assessing toxicity and ecotoxicity aspects. Current uncertainties are substantial for these impact categories, although it is generally recognized that it is better to have one indicator than no indicator at all for an impact category.The LCA practitioner in the building sector should also be aware that current efforts are under way at the international level to harmonize the toxicity and ecotoxicity models: see e.g. the USE-oTox model.The latest developments in LCIA for human toxicity have included a new compartment ‘indoor air emissions’ in the USETox model (which is recommended for use by the ILCD). Accounting for indoor air emissions is increasingly relevant, as human beings spend most of their time inside buildings.Such new LCIA developments have to be connected to the EeBGuide aspect of Module B1 ‘Release of dangerous substances to air during the use stage’. The previous European project LoRe-LCA describes the basic concepts of such models in more detail (report available online). Practitioners should also keep in mind that national EPD programmes may also recommend using toxicity indicators that are not included in the core European PCR (EN 15804 and EN 15978). In this case, the practitioner should use them for national LCA studies (if relevant). This guidance will be précised and updated when the EN 15804/EN 15978 are revised.

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