USEtox 2.0: How to improve the evaluation of toxic impacts?

USEtox is the scientific consensus model to evaluate human toxicity and freshwater aquatic ecotoxicity recommended by the European Commission in ILCD handbook on impact assessment methods. USEtox also help to perform a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). While it is being extensively tested and some limitations identified in on-going PEF pilots, a second version of the model was released last year, partially tackling some of these limitations. If you missed the new functionalities of USEtox 2.0, this article if for you.

USEtox2.0 was developed in the context of the European FP7 Marie Curie project Toxtrain, where 4 academic and industrial partners (Danish Technical University, Radboud University, Veolia and Quantis) worked on refining the model, extending the substance coverage, modeling additional exposure pathways, elaborating a more user-friendly interface, and incorporating some recent research outcomes.

So, what are the new functionalities of USEtox2.0? Here are the main new components:

- Evaluation of indoor air toxicity, through the incorporation of household and industrial indoor air compartments. The impact of emissions from indoor industrial activity, painting, indoor perfume diffusors can finally be assessed.

Household and industrial indoor

Household and industrial indoor air compartments integrated in USEtox2.0 structure

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- Evaluation of human exposure to pesticide residues from direct application: the toxicity of pesticide residues from “archetype crop” such as wheat, paddy rice, tomato, apple, lettuce, potato, are modeled and can be evaluated in addition to the toxicity of diffuse emissions. LCA can now have an insight in the toxic impact of eating an apple or other agricultural products with pesticide residues, which fills a large gap in terms of contribution to human toxicity.

New regionalized landscapes for 8 continental and 17 sub-continental regions. Although human toxicity and ecotoxicity fate still shows a large variability on the intra-continental level, these landscapes can be used to provide more specific characterization factors as a sensitivity analysis for the existing default landscape.

Sub-continental landscapes

Sub-continental landscapes integrated in USEtox2.0

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New user interface and documentation: A wizard yet supports the use of USEtox2.0 for substances integrated in the database and assists the user in the development of new characterization factors. The results are expressed in tables and also represented as dynamic output graphs.

Sans titre3

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Additionally, to these major updates, other improvements in the modeling were integrated, such as:

  • The modeling of the environmental fate of ionizing organic substances
  • Integration of acids, bases, amphoters partitioning in soil
  • Development of generic freshwater ecotoxicity characterization for cationic metals
  • Partitioning adjusted for truly dissolved fraction
  • Based on parameterized freshwater archetypes
  • Data and factors for new chemicals (few PAHs and metals)
  • Updated soil degradation half-lives for pesticides
  • Corrective updates of fate data (irrigation, run-off, …)
  • Several 100 new substances to come within next months

In summary, since the release of USEtox1.0 in 2008, several new functionalities were added that give the possibility to assess (eco)toxic impact through other pathways than outdoor diffuse emissions, use regionalized characterization factors, get improved physico-chemical data and fate modeling, and use a more user-friendly interface.

To learn more, contact Anna Kounina, Ph.D, Quantis Lausanne.

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