USEtox human exposure and toxicity factors for comparative assessment of toxic emissions in life cycle analysis: sensitivity to key chemical properties

Ralph K. Rosenbaum, Mark Huijbregts, Andrew D. Henderson, Manuele Margni, Thomas E. McKone, Dik van de Meent, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Shanna Shaked, Ding Sheng Li, Lois Swirsky Gold, Olivier Jolliet

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Purpose The aim of this paper is to provide science-based consensus and guidance for health effects modelling in comparative assessments based on human exposure and toxicity. This aim is achieved by i) describing the USEtoxTM exposure and toxicity models representing consensus and recommended modelling practice, ii) identifying key mechanisms influencing human exposure and toxicity effects of chemical emissions, iii) extending substance coverage. Methods The methods section of this paper contains a detailed documentation of both the human exposure and toxic effects models of USEtoxTM, to determine impacts on human health per kg substance emitted in different compartments. These are considered as scientific consensus and therefore recommended practice for comparative toxic impact assessment. The framework of the exposure model is described in details including the modelling of each exposure pathway considered (i.e. inhalation through air, ingestion through i) drinking water, ii) agricultural produce, iii) meat and milk, and iv) fish). The calculation of human health effect factors for cancer and non-cancer effects via ingestion and inhalation exposure respectively is described. This section also includes discussions regarding parameterisation and estimation of input data needed, including route-to-route and acute-to-chronic extrapolations. Results and discussion For most chemicals in USEtoxTM, inhalation, above-ground agricultural produce, and fish are the important exposure pathways with key driving factors being the compartment and place of emission, partitioning, degradation, bioaccumulation and bioconcentration, and dietary habits of the population. For inhalation, the population density is the key factor driving the intake, thus the importance to differentiate emissions in urban areas, except for very persistent and mobile chemicals that are taken in by the global population independently from their place of emission. The analysis of carcinogenic potency (TD50) when volatile chemicals are administrated to rats and mice by both inhalation and an oral route suggests that results by one route can reasonably be used to represent another route. However, we first identify and mark as interim chemicals for which observed tumours are directly related to a given exposure route (e.g. for nasal or lung, or gastro-intestinal cancers) or for which absorbed fraction by inhalation and by oral route differ greatly. Conclusions A documentation of the human exposure and toxicity models of USEtoxTM is provided, and key factors driving the human health characterisation factor are identified. Approaches are proposed to derive human toxic effect factors and expand the number of chemicals in USEtoxTM, primarily by extrapolating from an oral route to exposure in air (and optionally acute-to-chronic). Some exposure pathways (e.g. indoor inhalation, pesticide residues, dermal exposure) will be included in a later stage. USEtoxTM is applicable in various comparative toxicity impact assessments and not limited to LCA.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
    Issue number8
    Pages (from-to)710-727
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Human health
    • Life Cycle Impact Assessment
    • USEtox
    • Life Cycle Assessment
    • Consensus
    • Toxicity
    • Human exposure
    • LCIA


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