Two analytic perspectives on environmental assessment dominate environmental policy and decision-making: Risk analysis (RA) and life-cycle assessment (LCA). RA focuses on management of a toxicological hazard in a specific exposure scenario, while LCA seeks a holistic estimation of impacts of thousands of substances across multiple media, including non-toxicological and non-chemically deleterious effects. While recommendations to integrate the two approaches have remained a consistent feature of environmental scholarship for at least 15 years, the current perception is that progress is slow largely because of practical obstacles, such as a lack of data, rather than insurmountable theoretical difficulties. Nonetheless, the emergence of nanotechnology presents a serious challenge to both perspectives. Because the pace of nanomaterial innovation far outstrips acquisition of environmentally relevant data, it is now clear that a further integration of RA and LCA based on dataset completion will remain futile. In fact, the two approaches are suited for different purposes and answer different questions. A more pragmatic approach to providing better guidance to decision-makers is to apply the two methods in parallel, integrating only after obtaining separate results.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Biomedical Engineering
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering