Comparison of two equivalency factor approaches with simplified risk assessment for lcia of toxicity impact potential

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Abstract

Three approaches recommended for characterization of toxicity impact potential in a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) are tested on a case study and compared. The two equivalency factor methods are the Persistence, Bioaccumulation, and Toxicity (PBT) method and the Multimedia Fate Modeling (MFM) method using a Mackay Level III model with state-specific environmental data. The simplified risk assessment (SRA) method involved dispersion modeling using site-specific environmental data. The life cycle inventory information evaluated by all three methods was limited to manufacturing of the RDX-based explosive in Kingsport, Tennessee. The effort to collect site-specific environmental data and conduct air dispersion modeling for the SRA method required about 24 times more effort than the PBT method and about 4 times more effort than the MFM method. Direct comparison of impact potential scores for the three approaches were limited to inhalation toxicity scores for nine air pollutants modeled by SRA. Correlations were made on the rank order of the impact potential scores for the nine air emissions evaluated for all three LCIA methods. Although the number of chemicals compared is very limited, the best correlation coefficient (0.96) was between the rank orders for the MFM and the SRA methods. The minimal effort and reduced accuracy of the PBT approach make it best suited for screening large numbers of chemicals for further evaluation of the highest ranked chemicals. The intermediate effort and reasonable accuracy (includes transfers to other media) of the MFM approach make it well suited for LCIAs involving comparative assertions or governmental policy decisions. The maximum effort and assumption of highest accuracy make the SRA approach suitable only after limiting the locations of interest to a few sites by screening with the other two approaches.