Integrate life-cycle assessment and risk analysis results, not methods

Igor Linkov, Benjamin D. Trump, Ben A. Wender, Thomas Seager, Alan J. Kennedy, Jeffrey M. Keisler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)740-743
Number of pages4
JournalNature nanotechnology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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