Health effects of fine particulate matter in life cycle impact assessment: findings from the Basel Guidance Workshop

  • Peter FantkeEmail author
  • Olivier Jolliet
  • John S. Evans
  • Joshua S. Apte
  • Aaron J. Cohen
  • Otto O. Hänninen
  • Fintan Hurley
  • Matti J. Jantunen
  • Michael Jerrett
  • Jonathan I. Levy
  • Miranda M. Loh
  • Julian D. Marshall
  • Brian G. Miller
  • Philipp Preiss
  • Joseph V. Spadaro
  • Marko Tainio
  • Jouni T. Tuomisto
  • Charles J. Weschler
  • Thomas E. McKone



Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is considered to be one of the most important environmental factors contributing to the global human disease burden. However, due to the lack of broad consensus and harmonization in the life cycle assessment (LCA) community, there is no clear guidance on how to consistently include health effects from PM2.5 exposure in LCA practice. As a consequence, different models are currently used to assess life cycle impacts for PM2.5, sometimes leading to inconsistent results. In a global effort initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Life Cycle Initiative, respiratory inorganics’ impacts expressed as health effects from PM2.5 exposure were selected as one of the initial impact categories to undergo review with the goal of providing global guidance for implementation in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). The goal of this paper is to summarize the current knowledge and practice for assessing health effects from PM2.5 exposure and to provide recommendations for their consistent integration into LCIA.


A task force on human health impacts was convened to build the framework for consistently quantifying health effects from PM2.5 exposure and for recommending PM2.5 characterization factors. In an initial Guidance Workshop, existing literature was reviewed and input from a broad range of internationally recognized experts was obtained and discussed. Workshop objectives were to identify the main scientific questions and challenges for quantifying health effects from PM2.5 exposure and to provide initial guidance to the impact quantification process.

Results and discussion

A set of 10 recommendations was developed addressing (a) the general framework for assessing PM2.5-related health effects, (b) approaches and data to estimate human exposure to PM2.5 using intake fractions, and (c) approaches and data to characterize exposure-response functions (ERFs) for PM2.5 and to quantify severity of the diseases attributed to PM2.5 exposure. Despite these advances, a number of complex issues, such as those related to nonlinearity of the ERF and the possible need to provide different ERFs for use in different geographical regions, require further analysis.

Conclusions and outlook

Questions of how to refine and improve the overall framework were analyzed. Data and models were proposed for harmonizing various elements of the health impact pathways for PM2.5. Within the next two years, our goal is to build a global guidance framework and to determine characterization factors that are more reliable for incorporating the health effects from exposure to PM2.5 into LCIA. Ideally, this will allow quantification of the impacts of both indoor and outdoor exposures to PM2.5.


Air pollution Exposure-response function Fine particulate matter Global guidance Human health effects Intake fraction Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Fantke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olivier Jolliet
    • 2
  • John S. Evans
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joshua S. Apte
    • 5
  • Aaron J. Cohen
    • 6
  • Otto O. Hänninen
    • 7
  • Fintan Hurley
    • 8
  • Matti J. Jantunen
    • 7
  • Michael Jerrett
    • 9
  • Jonathan I. Levy
    • 10
  • Miranda M. Loh
    • 11
  • Julian D. Marshall
    • 12
  • Brian G. Miller
    • 8
  • Philipp Preiss
    • 13
  • Joseph V. Spadaro
    • 14
  • Marko Tainio
    • 15
    • 16
  • Jouni T. Tuomisto
    • 7
  • Charles J. Weschler
    • 17
    • 18
  • Thomas E. McKone
    • 9
    • 19
  1. 1.Quantitative Sustainability Assessment Division, Department of Management EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Cyprus International Institute for Environment and Public HealthCyprus University of TechnologyLimassolCyprus
  5. 5.Energy and Resources GroupUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  6. 6.Health Effects InstituteBostonUSA
  7. 7.National Institute for Health and WelfareKuopioFinland
  8. 8.Institute of Occupational MedicineEdinburghUK
  9. 9.School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  10. 10.School of Public HealthBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  11. 11.Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public HealthUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  12. 12.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  13. 13.econcept AGZurichSwitzerland
  14. 14.Basque Centre for Climate ChangeBilbao BizkaiaSpain
  15. 15.Systems Research InstitutePolish Academy of SciencesWarsawPoland
  16. 16.UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  17. 17.Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences InstituteRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  18. 18.International Centre for Indoor Environment and EnergyTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  19. 19.Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA

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