A Methodology for Inclusion of Terrestrial Ecotoxic Impacts of Metals in Life Cycle Impact Assessment

Publication: ResearchConference abstract in proceedings – Annual report year: 2011


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Terrestrial ecotoxicity is in most cases not addressed or to a very limited extent in life cycle assessment (LCA). We are developing a new method for calculating terrestrial ecotoxicity characterization factor (CF) of metals for application in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). e method takes into account metal speciation and interactions with soil organic constituents, because these mechanisms control metal bioavailability and inuence their toxic properties. Transfer functions and geochemical speciation models are employed to calculate reactive and available fractions of metals in 1300 soils spanning a wide range of properties and pore water chemistry. Site-specic fate factors (FF), bioavailability factors (BF) and eect factors (EF) are then calculated for these soils. e biggest variability is observed for BF, which can vary from 2 to 6 orders of magnitude for the cases of Ni and Cu, respectively. ese variations are a result of variability in soil properties such as pH, organic carbon or clay content. Published terrestrial biotic ligand models (TBLM) and free ion activity models (FIAM) are next employed in order to derive terrestrial ecotoxicity EFs. Median EFs predicted with TBLMs for Cu and Ni correspond to average ecotoxicity (range) of 12.4 (6.6 – 364) and 1194 (62 – 42164) μg/L, respectively. EFs derived with FIAMs turn out to be 6.5 (Cu) and 7.5 (Ni) times higher than these derived with TBLMs. e ecotoxicity ratio of Cu to Ni is accurately predicted with both models and the contribution of EF to the CF is within the same order of magnitude or lower comparing to that of the BF. us, FIAMs can be employed to calculate EFs for metals for which TBLMs are not available. From a set of spatially explicit CFs, site-generic CFs can be derived at global or continental scales. For applications in LCIA, the tradeo between the level of geographical detail and the level of uncertainty in both spatially explicit and site-generic CFs remains to be investigated. e method highlights the importance of taking into account variability of soil properties in deriving operational characterization factors for terrestrial ecotoxicity of metals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstract Book : North America 32nd Annual Meeting
Number of pages437
Publication date2011
StatePublished - 2011
EventSociety of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry : Navigating Environmental Challenges: Historical Lessons Guiding Future Directions - Boston, United States


ConferenceSociety of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry : Navigating Environmental Challenges: Historical Lessons Guiding Future Directions
CountryUnited States

Bibliographical note

13–17 November

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ID: 6352042