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Impact categories (IC)

The impact categories (IC) represent environmental issues of concern to which LCI results may be assigned. The IC selected in each LCA study has to describe the impacts caused by considered products or product system analysed. The selection of the list of impacts categories has to fulfil several conditions:

  • The overall recommendation regarding the choice of impact categories is to include all the impact categories for which international consensus have been reached.
  • The list should not contain too many categories.
  • Double counting should be avoided by choosing independent impact categories.
  • The characterisation methods of the different impact categories should be available.

Some baseline examples considered in most of the LCA studies are illustrated in Table 1.1:

impact category category indicator characterisation model characterisation factor
Abiotic depletion Ultimate reserve. annual use Guinee & Heijungs 95 ADP
Climate change infrared radiative forcing IPCC model GWP
Stratospheric ozone depletion stratospheric ozone breakdown WMO model ODP
Human toxicity PDI/ADI Multimedia model, e.g.EUSES, CalTox HTP
Ecotoxicity (aquatic, terrestrial etc.) PEC/PNEC Multimedia model, e.g. EUSES, CalTox AETP, TETP, etc.
Photo-oxidant formation Trop. ozone formation UNECE Trajectory model POCP
Acidification Deposition critical load RAINS AP
Eutrophication Nutrient enrichment CARMEN EP

Table 1.1: Basline examples, source CIEMAT

As there is no international agreement on the different approaches regarding the impact categories, different methods are applied in current LCAs. Besides, some studies do not analyse all the impact categories of the previous list, while others use more than the previous categories mentioned.

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