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Advancements in Life Cycle Human Exposure and Toxicity Characterization
Chiu, Weihsueh A.
Wetmore, Barbara A.
McKone, Thomas E.
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The Life Cycle Initiative, hosted at the United Nations Environment Programme, selected human toxicity impacts from exposure to chemical substances as an impact category that requires global guidance to overcome current assessment challenges. The initiative leadership established the Human Toxicity Task Force to develop guidance on assessing human exposure and toxicity impacts. Based on input gathered at three workshops addressing the main current scientific challenges and questions, the task force built a roadmap for advancing human toxicity characterization, primarily for use in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). OBJECTIVES: The present paper aims at reporting on the outcomes of the task force workshops along with interpretation of how these outcomes will impact the practice and reliability of toxicity characterization. The task force thereby focuses on two major issues that emerged from the workshops, namely considering near-field exposures and improving dose-response modeling. DISCUSSION: The task force recommended approaches to improve the assessment of human exposure, including capturing missing exposure settings and human receptor pathways by coupling additional fate and exposure processes in consumer and occupational environments (near field) with existing processes in outdoor environments (far field). To quantify overall aggregate exposure, the task force suggested that environments be coupled using a consistent set of quantified chemical mass fractions transferred among environmental compartments. With respect to dose-response, the task force was concerned about the way LCIA currently characterizes human toxicity effects, and discussed several potential solutions. A specific concern is the use of a (linear) dose-response extrapolation to zero. Another concern addresses the challenge of identifying a metric for human toxicity impacts that is aligned with the spatiotemporal resolution of present LCIA methodology, yet is adequate to indicate health impact potential. CONCLUSIONS: Further research efforts arc required based on our proposed set of recommendations for improving the characterization of human exposure and toxicity impacts in LCIA and other comparative assessment frameworks.