EU Science Hub

Environmental Footprint: Update of Life Cycle Impact Assessment methods – Ecotoxicity freshwater, human toxicity cancer, and non-cancer

Abstract: 
In 2011 the EC-JRC published the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook recommendations on the use of Impact Assessment models for use in LCA (EC-JRC 2011a). This created the basis for the Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint (PEF/OEF) recommendations for impact categories and models as per Recommendation 2013/179/EU on the use of common methods to measure and communicate the life cycle environmental performance of products and organisations (EC 2013a). This Commission Recommendation is expected to contribute to the Building the Single Market for Green Products (EC 2013b) by supporting a level playing field regarding the measurement of environmental performance of products and organisations. In the context of the PEF, the model retained and recommended for assessing the impact of elementary flows on freshwater aquatic ecosystems and human cancer and non-cancer toxicity was the model USEtox 1.01. However, due to the difficulties encountered in using the model and in interpretation the results, the PEF Technical Advisory Board (TAB) has decided not to include the freshwater aquatic toxicity, human cancer and human non-cancer toxicity impact categories in the list of mandatory impact categories to be used for hotspot analysis and for communication to consumer of to business. The Joint Research Centre (JRC-Ispra) was then mandated by DG environment to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the model and data used to calculate CFs and to come with a proposal to 1) address the issue reported by the Pilots and 2) increase the number of available CFs. Using the physicochemical and toxicity data available in the REACH, EFSA and PPDB database, and building on the feedback collected during a PEF stakeholder workshop organised in February 2018 and on the preliminary outcomes of the UNEP-SETAC Pellston workshop organised in June 2018, JRC has new aquatic toxicity characterisation factors for about 6000 substances and about 3500 for human toxicity non-cancer. The report describes the methodology followed to generate those new characterisation factors. Furthermore, a contribution analysis has been performed comparing the contribution to this new CFs versus old ones used in the PEF pilots.