Researchers from universities in Sweden and Denmark have published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology proposing a framework to incorporate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into life cycle assessment (LCA). The framework is based on defining the fractions of individual PFAS substances that transform into perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), which are the highly persistent terminal forms that can remain in the environment. A characterization model was adapted within the USEtox model to then estimate human health and environmental impacts. PFAAs are understood to accumulate over long periods of time in open oceans.
To illustrate the concept, the study applied the framework to estimate human toxicity as well as marine and freshwater ecotoxicity for the three PFAAs of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA; CAS 335-67-1), perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA; CAS 307-24-4), and perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS; CAS 375-73-5). The characterization factors describing the toxicity of these three substances were found to be ranked in the top 5% most toxic to marine life when compared to the other 3,104 chemicals in the USEtox results databases. While current data limitations create uncertainties, the authors emphasize that this study still shows the practical application of the developed framework to include PFAS in LCA and shows “that even low emissions of PFASs can have large effects on LCA results.”
Chemical Watch (May 19, 2020). “Framework developed for including PFASs in lifecycle assessment.”
Holmquist, H. et al. (May 4, 2020). “An (Eco)Toxicity Life Cycle Impact Assessment Framework for Per- And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.” Environmental Science & Technology