Risk Analysis

Comparative Human Health Impact Assessment of Engineered Nanomaterials in the Framework of Life Cycle Assessment

Journal Article

  • Author(s): Wouter Fransman, Harrie Buist, Eelco Kuijpers, Tobias Walser, David Meyer, Esther Zondervan‐van den Beuken, Joost Westerhout, Rinke H. Klein Entink, Derk H. Brouwer
  • Article first published online: 24 Sep 2016
  • DOI: 10.1111/risa.12703
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For safe innovation, knowledge on potential human health impacts is essential. Ideally, these impacts are considered within a larger life‐cycle‐based context to support sustainable development of new applications and products. A methodological framework that accounts for human health impacts caused by inhalation of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in an indoor air environment has been previously developed. The objectives of this study are as follows: (i) evaluate the feasibility of applying the CF framework for NP exposure in the workplace based on currently available data; and (ii) supplement any resulting knowledge gaps with methods and data from the life cycle approach and human risk assessment (LICARA) project to develop a modified case‐specific version of the framework that will enable near‐term inclusion of NP human health impacts in life cycle assessment (LCA) using a case study involving nanoscale titanium dioxide (nanoTiO2). The intent is to enhance typical LCA with elements of regulatory risk assessment, including its more detailed measure of uncertainty. The proof‐of‐principle demonstration of the framework highlighted the lack of available data for both the workplace emissions and human health effects of ENMs that is needed to calculate generalizable characterization factors using common human health impact assessment practices in LCA. The alternative approach of using intake fractions derived from workplace air concentration measurements and effect factors based on best‐available toxicity data supported the current case‐by‐case approach for assessing the human health life cycle impacts of ENMs. Ultimately, the proposed framework and calculations demonstrate the potential utility of integrating elements of risk assessment with LCA for ENMs once the data are available.

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