A framework for deciding on the inclusion of emerging impacts in life cycle impact assessment

S. Cucurachi, R. Heijungs, W.J.G.M. Peijnenburg, J.F.B. Bolte, G.R. de Snoo

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


As technology progresses, so does the concern about the potential health impacts on humans and biodiversity that go in hand with technological development. Emerging new impacts that are characteristic of the anthropocene require more attention in current life cycle assessment (LCA), a framework in which many relevant impact assessment models are still missing. More attention, more data and more concern require the LCA community to intervene and to start or increase the modelling efforts to accommodate new impacts in LCA. To date the process of inclusion of new impacts in LCA has not yet been formalised. To deal with this process, a framework is here proposed and tested through the analysis of three emerging impact categories, noise, ecological light pollution (ELP) and radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). We show that any development must start from a careful study of the theories and investigations from other specialist fields of science than the field of LCA. The gathering of such information is fundamental to assess the maturity of the impacts, their importance and the quality of the evidence that is available. In addition, this information has to be bridged to the computational structure of LCA, to check whether the physical properties of new impacts may be adjusted to the basics of LCA. We discuss the three new potential impact categories as a paradigm for action for any new development in LCA. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-163
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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