Comprehensive environmental assessment of a chemical product
The aim of this
strategy is to describe how and when Environmental
Risk Assessment (ERA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can be used in
combination to assess the total environmental impact from a chemical product, based on
experiences from Akzo Nobel.
In order not to make environmental sub-optimizations when choosing
between different products, all of the possible detrimental effects on the environment that the
product may give rise to during its life cycle should preferably be
Consider for example a comparative assessment of two chemical
bleaching products where only the impact on global warming is included.
The comparison would limp because the toxic and eco-toxic properties of
the products were not included. Consider also a comparative assessment of
two asphalt additives, where one is used in very small amounts, but toxic,
and the other is not toxic, but used in large amounts and contributes
largely to global warming. This assessment would limp if the contribution
to global warming was not included.
Background data for a comprehensive environmental assessment would include e.g. aspects like the inherent properties of
the chemical constituents and properties of the local and regional environment as well
as the resource consumption, emissions and waste the product gives rise to during
cycle. There is no single tool
available that includes all these different aspects, but the combination of
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and an
Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) can present a good overview of possible detrimental effects.
The aim of an Environmental Risk Assessment study is to
assess whether there may be a risk to the environment from possible releases of a specific
Life Cycle Assessment is the assessment of possible environmental impacts
from all activities necessary for the existence of product.
Environmental impacts from resources used, emissions emitted and wastes
produced by the activities in the life cycle from raw material extraction
through processing, manufacturing, use and waste handling are accounted
for in the LCA.
An ERA and an LCA can therefore complement each other to
comprehensive environmental assessment of a substance. The advantages of
using a complementary tool depend on the purpose of the study, as
exemplified above. The working procedure therefore has two starting
- The important issue is the problematic inherent properties of the
chemical product, e.g. toxicity or persistence -> ERA with a
- The important issue is the total environmental impact of the
products, but one alternative product may cause toxic or eco-toxic
effects -> LCA with a complementary ERA.
Akzo Nobel has performed an ERA, an LCA and a comparative LCA on an additive used in very small
quantities in asphalt pavement.
The experiences from the studies are summarized in this strategy and the
report can be downloaded
here. A report about the relationships between Risk assessment and
Life cycle assessment can be downloaded
People working with environmental support within a company or are involved in research & development
or marketing functions may benefit
from a more holistic view in their
environmental assessments of chemical products.
Basic knowledge of the LCA and ERA methodologies may be a prerequisite
for using this strategy.