Safe and Sustainable: including health and environmental chemical risks in a life cycle perspective for assessment of chemicals

Main Presenter: Tomas Rydberg 

Co-Authors:

A common approach in frameworks designed to assess safety and sustainability of chemicals (e.g. UBA 2016) is that they address the safety/inherent hazard aspect of the chemical in question, as a first assessment criterium. Other sustainability aspects, and life cycle considerations, typically come into the picture at a subsequent stage. This could possibly, and a bit bluntly, be seen as following the logic “First safe, then sustainable”, rather than conforming to a “Safe and Sustainable”. The life cycle aspects typically covers climate change and resource use. Typically, there is a lack of inclusion of chemical risks in the supply chain of the chemicals.

Methods for assessing chemical risks in a life cycle perspective have been advanced, notably evident through recent advancements in eco- and human toxicity characterization methodology, covering ecotoxicological impacts and also human health impact potentials via indirect exposure, essentially based on USEtox (Saouter et al, 2020) as suggested in the environmental footprint method (European Commission, 2021). Also for direct exposure related human health risks in a life cycle perspective there are approaches available, as considered in recent recommendations of the UNEP 21 Global Guidance and Methods on Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators (GLAM) project (Fantke e al 2021), as well as in the ProScale method (Lexén et al, 2017). USEtox and ProScale are currently complementary approaches.
The ongoing MistraSafeChem research program (mistrasafechem.org) commenced in 2020 and works to integrate these approaches into a life cycle based toolbox for Safe and sustainable chemicals. Examples from recent and ongoing work will be presented.

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