The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 1452–1462 | Cite as

Human health characterization factors of nano-TiO2 for indoor and outdoor environments

  • Martina Pini
  • Beatrice Salieri
  • Anna Maria Ferrari
  • Bernd Nowack
  • Roland Hischier



The increasing use of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in industrial applications and consumer products is leading to an inevitable release of these materials into the environment. This makes it necessary to assess the potential risks that these new materials pose to human health and the environment. Life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology has been recognized as a key tool for assessing the environmental performance of nanoproducts. Until now, the impacts of ENMs could not be included in LCA studies due to a lack of characterization factors (CFs). This paper provides a methodological framework for identifying human health CFs for ENMs.


The USEtox™ model was used to identify CFs for assessing the potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects on human health caused by ENM emissions in both indoor (occupational settings) and outdoor environments. Nano-titanium dioxide (nano-TiO2) was selected for defining the CFs in this study, as it is one of the most commonly used ENMs. For the carcinogenic effect assessment, a conservative approach was adopted; indeed, a critical dose estimate for pulmonary inflammation was assumed.

Results and discussion

We propose CFs for nano-TiO2 from 5.5E−09 to 1.43E−02 cases/kgemitted for both indoor and outdoor environments and for carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects.


These human health CFs for nano-TiO2 are an important step toward the comprehensive application of LCA methodology in the field of nanomaterial technology.


Characterization factor Exposure factor Fate factor Human toxicity factor Intake fraction Life cycle assessment (LCA) Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) Titanium dioxide nanoparticles 



We would like to thank Johannes J. Meesters, from IWWR (Netherlands), for his significant support and fruitful discussions throughout this paper’s preparation. Particular thanks go to Jean-Pierre Kaiser, from EMPA, and Pietro Fumagalli, from University of Milan-Bicocca, for their help in the field of toxicology.

Compliance with ethical standards

This manuscript, entitled “Human health characterization factors of titanium dioxide nanoparticles for indoor and outdoor environments,” has been approved by all its authors. It has not been previously published, nor is it under consideration for publication elsewhere. No data or figures have been fabricated or manipulated to support our conclusions. No data or text prepared by others have been presented as if they were the authors’ own. Hence, the submission declaration has been complied with.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. This research involved no animals.

Supplementary material

11367_2016_1115_MOESM1_ESM.docx (68 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martina Pini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Beatrice Salieri
    • 2
  • Anna Maria Ferrari
    • 1
  • Bernd Nowack
    • 2
  • Roland Hischier
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Sciences and Methods for EngineeringUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaReggio EmiliaItaly
  2. 2.Technology and Society LaboratoryEmpa-Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and TechnologySt. GallenSwitzerland

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