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Impact Categories (IC)

The impact categories (ICs) represent environmental issues of concern to which LCI results may be assigned. The ICs selected in each LCA study have to describe the impacts caused by the products being considered or the product system being analysed. The selection of the list of ICs has to fulfil several conditions (Linfors et al., 1995):

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

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

Table 1.1: Baseline Examples


Impact category
Category indicator
Characterisation model
Characterisation factor
Abiotic depletion Ultimate reserve, annual use Guinee and Heijungs 95 ADP9
Climate change Infrared radiative forcing IPCC model3 GWP10
Stratospheric ozone depletion Stratospheric ozone breakdown WMO model4 ODP11
Human toxicity PDI/ADI1 Multimedia model, e.g. EUSES5, CalTox HTP12
Ecotoxicity (aquatic, terrestrial, etc)  PEC/PNEC2 Multimedia model, e.g. EUSES, CalTox  AETP13, TETP14, etc
Photo-oxidant formation Tropospheric ozone formation  UNECE6 Trajectory model  POCP15
Acidification Deposition critical load  RAINS7  AP16
Eutrophication  Nutrient enrichment  CARMEN8  EP17
Source: CIEMAT

1 PDI/ADI Predicted daily intake/Aceptable daily intake
2 PEC/PNEC Predicted environmental concentrations/Predicted no-effects concentrations
3 IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
4 WMO World Meteorological Organization
5 EUSES European Union System for the Evaluation of Substances
6 UNECE United Nations Economic Commission For Europe
7 RAINS Regional Acidification Information and Simulation
8 CARMEN Cause Effect Relation Model to Support Environmental Negotiations
9 ADP Abiotic depletion potential
10 GWP Global warming potential
11 ODP Ozone depletion potential
12 HTP Human toxicity potential
13 AETP Aquatic ecotoxicity potential
14 TETP Terrestrial ecotoxicity potential
15 POCP Photochemical ozone creation potential
16 AP Acidification potential
17 EP Eutrophication potential


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

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