Chemical Footprint Method for Improved Communication of Freshwater Ecotoxicity Impacts in the Context of Ecological Limits

Anders Bjørn, Miriam Diamond, Morten Birkved, Michael Zwicky Hauschild

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The ecological footprint method has been successful in communicating environmental impacts of anthropogenic activities in the context of ecological limits. We introduce a chemical footprint method that expresses ecotoxicity impacts from anthropogenic chemical emissions as the dilution needed to avoid freshwater ecosystem damage. The indicator is based on USEtox characterization factors with a modified toxicity reference point. Chemical footprint results can be compared to the actual dilution capacity within the geographic vicinity receiving the emissions to estimate whether its ecological limit has been exceeded and hence whether emissions can be expected to be environmentally sustainable. The footprint method was illustrated using two case studies. The first was all inventoried emissions from European countries and selected metropolitan areas in 2004, which indicated that the dilution capacity was likely exceeded for most European countries and all landlocked metropolitan areas. The second case study indicated that peak application of pesticides alone was likely to exceed Denmark's freshwater dilution capacity in 1999-2011. The uncertainty assessment showed that better spatially differentiated fate factors would be useful and pointed out other major sources of uncertainty and some opportunities to reduce these.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology (Washington)
    Issue number22
    Pages (from-to)13253-13262
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • ecological limit
    • freshwater ecotoxicity impact
    • geographic vicinity
    • chemical toxin, pollutant
    • 07514, Ecology: environmental biology - Limnology
    • 22501, Toxicology - General and methods
    • 22506, Toxicology - Environment and industry
    • 37015, Public health - Air, water and soil pollution
    • Ecology, Environmental Sciences
    • chemical footprint method laboratory techniques
    • Freshwater Ecology
    • Methods and Techniques
    • Pollution Assessment Control and Management
    • Toxicology
    • MODEL
    • SYSTEM
    • FATE

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