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Chemical toxicity in a life cycle perspective

Toxicity impacts of chemicals on environmental and human health can be more thoroughly evaluated thanks to a toxicity assessment toolbox developed by European researchers building on current UNEP/SETAC consensus efforts.
Chemical toxicity in a life cycle perspective
Many chemical, pharmaceutical or other products can be associated with chemical emissions during various product life cycle stages and subsequently expose humans and ecosystems, where they can cause toxic effects. A life-cycle assessment characterized these emissions from the raw material stage through product manufacturing, use and end of life.

The EU-funded TOX-TRAIN (Implementation of a toxicity assessment tool for practical evaluation of life-cycle impacts of technologies (TOX-TRAIN)) project builds upon a previously developed consensus-based tool that assesses the potential toxicity of products and technologies during their life cycle. TOX-TRAIN created a toolbox that is built on expanding the existing tool to include more exposure possibilities and a greater number of chemical substances, particularly those with uncertain properties.

Substances covered by the new toolbox include chemicals or metabolites that accumulate in the environment and in the human body, pesticides and biocides, musks/fragrances and metals. In addition to industrial and agricultural settings, the new tool includes an indoor compartment model to assess exposure in households and the workplace. The model also encompasses scenarios where a consumer is directly exposed to a chemical through a product – for example, a directly applied cosmetic product.

TOX-TRAIN tested the newly developed toolbox by implementing it in three case studies of common industrial processes. Researchers compared ecological and human toxicity impacts of different sludge-handling techniques, innovative wastewater treatment options and household exposure to toxins. The last includes, for example, pesticide residues ingested by humans from consuming food crops.

By characterising toxicity effects, the user-friendly toolbox developed by TOX-TRAIN will greatly improve life-cycle impact assessments for a wide range of products and technologies.

Related information


Chemical, human health, environmental health, toxicity characterization, life-cycle assessment, TOX-TRAIN, industrial processes
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