Life Cycle Assessment: Human health and environmental impacts EHS 672
(# of Credits 3)
Olivier Jolliet, 26 August 2008, v.1
Department of Environmental Health Science, School of Public Health
This course will showcase a variety of quantitative decision making tools that will help evaluate
production processes and consumption decisions by considering their human health and environmental
impacts over the life cycle of products. It is originally designed for SPH students to help developing
preventative approach for evaluating and mitigating the human health and environmental impacts
associated with products and levels of consumption. It is also of high interest for students across UoM
Schools (SNRE, Engineering, Business School, etc.) interested in a life cycle approach to sustainable
Consumption and production decisions can be linked to their environmental and human health impacts.
Utilizing a life cycle approach, this course will first provide an overview of the impacts generated by
consumers and by the students themselves. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA1) methodology of products
and services will then be presented. A special focus will be given to the characterization of comparative
risks of toxics substances on human health and ecosystems. This leads to discussion of the potentials
and limitations of quantitative LCA compared to other assessment tools such as risk assessment and
environmental impact assessment.
Practical case studies will be taken from multiple consumption domains, from agriculture and food
production up to electronic services. Interactive groupworks and discussion will also take place during
1. To adequately relate risk and impacts on human health to consumption and production.
2. To compare Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to other environmental tools (e.g. Risk Assessment).
3. To provide tools and practice opportunities for Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to
assess the environmental impact of products and systems over the whole product life cycle, from
cradle to grave.
4. To set the fundamentals for comparative risks on humans and ecosystems and their use in life cycle
1. Quantify the environmental and human health impacts of consumption, identifying the area of major
impact and of its potential reduction for a consumer.
2. Apply basic rules and frameworks for good LCA practice
3. Critically evaluate an existing LCA, looking rapidly at the key issues
4. Identify the main environmental and human health issues in a production process.
5. Understand the strengths, and limitations of the assessment tools.
Environmental Life Cycle Assessment is a tool to assess the environmental impact of products and systems over the
whole product life cycle, from cradle to grave. This assessment is usually performed in four phases:
- The goal definition defines the product or system function and the functional unit to which emissions will be related,
together with the system boundaries.
- The inventory, lists resources consumption and pollutant emissions to air, water, soil.
- The impact assessment assesses the environmental impact of these emissions.
- The interpretation phase performs sensitivity and uncertainty analyses, together with improvement assessment or cost-
Prerequisites - 1.Computer applications including spreadsheets, 2. Basic calculus, 3.Helpful but not
required: risk assessment, impact assessment.
Lecture material - All lecture notes will be posted ahead of time on the CTools site.
Please note that this course covers a considerable amount of material at a rapid pace. Students are expected
to develop understanding of the concepts at conceptual and practical levels. Calculations remains simple,
but the breadth of the life cycle approach will demand students to review material multiple times and involve
themselves in the case studies.
Readings - There is no required textbook. A copy of slides will be posted prior to courses. Essential
readings will be provided electronically. Some additional and optional materials will be placed on reserve in
the SPH library. Materials will be available on UM Course Tools. Additionally, some handouts may be
Homework assignments – Homework assignments will be handed out and posted on the CTools site, three
of them on a case study selected by groups of students. Assignments are due on the indicated date at the end
of class. Homework should be submitted as hard copy.
Homework is designed to demonstrate and elaborate ideas presented in lecture. Considerable learning
occurs through them. I encourage the discussion of homework in working groups. It will be indicated
whether homework must be written up separately or in small groups. It is advantageous to type your
homework. Homework will typically take the form of Word, PowerPoint or Excel files.
Tests - Exams emphasize the understanding of concepts, not number crunching. Exam absences must be
cleared in advance.
Optional complementary sessions – Optional review sessions will be held prior to the midterm and final
exam. Be prepared with questions.
(wiil still be adapted)
Grading – Midterm test 20%
Final test 20%
Homework outside the case study project 20%
Case study project 30%
Participation in class + group 10%
Contact information/Office hours
All queries should be directed to the course instructional aide, Shanna Shaked (email@example.com). She
will be available in SPHII-6134 or a needs basis, to discuss homework, demonstrate software, etc.
Additionally, you may contact Prof. O. O.Jolliet, SPH Tower-6622, (734)-647-0394; (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I advise you to schedule by e-mail.
Academic integrity - Copying on homework and exams will be penalized completely.
Your conduct as a student in the School of Public Health should be consistent with that of a professional
person. Courtesy, honesty, and respect should be shown by students toward faculty members, guest
lecturers, administrative support staff, and fellow students. You, as students should expect faculty to treat
you fairly, showing respect for your ideas and opinions and striving to help you achieve maximum benefits
from your experience in the School.
Student academic misconduct refers to behavior that may include plagiarism, cheating, fabrication,
falsification of records or official documents, intentional misuse of equipment or materials (including library
materials), and aiding and abetting the perpetration of such acts. The preparation of reports, papers and
examinations, assigned on an individual basis, must represent each student's own effort. Reference sources
should be indicated clearly. The use of assistance from other students or aids of any kind during a written
examination, except when the use of aids such as electronic devices, books or notes has been approved by an
instructor, is a violation of the standard of academic conduct.
************************ The exact schedule and homework still to be adapted **********************
Life cycle Assessment: Human health and environmental impacts EHS 672
Preliminary Schedule – Fall Semester 2008
Syllabus has been divided in session of 3 hours
Date Topic Suggested Readings Homework
1 1. RISKS AND IMPACTS OF Kaenzig and Jolliet, 2007 HW1 My main
CONSUMPTION (Prioritizing sustainable consumption patterns: consumption impacts
Key decisions, key actors and potential
- overall impacts of consumption - Calculation of energy
improvements of the environmental balance)
- energy slaves slaves and "Lance
- key decisions towards Hertwich et al., 2005 (Sustainable Amstrong equivalents"
sustainable consumption consumption) linked to personal
Kaenzig et al., 2005 (Discussion forum on
2 2. INTRODUCTION TO LCA
- Introductory case study on Jolliet et al, 1994: (Biodegradable packing
biopackaging (popcorn as a material)
renewable material for packaging)
International Journal of LCA 2000-2005 –
- Comparison of scope and focus Case studies
between environmental tools
(LCA, RA, EIA)
3 3. GOAL AND SYSTEM HW1 due
HW2: Functional unit
3.1 Goal definition, Function, and system definition
functional units: setting the (group project)
scene ISO 14047
- Selection of case
- objectives, scope and peer Distance learning material studies to be treated in
review groups for the whole
- function and functional units course
(LCA and lifecycle costs of light - Determination of
bulbs) function and functional
4 3.2 System boundaries - Determination of
- System approach, Flow chart, Electrowatt
rules for system definition, (the ETHZ et al., 1993 (Gaia paper on McDonald)
MacDonald counter example)
Distance learning material
5 4. LIFE CYCLE INVENTORY HW2 due
4.1 Energy and CO2 balance. Huijbregts et al, 2006, ES&T (Energy as an HW3: Energy and
Inventory of extraction and overall indicator) CO2 balances
emissions (group project)
Frischknecht et al. (The ecoinvent database)
(follow-up on light bulb example)
Energy and CO2
- Inventory principles
balances using process
4.2 Inventory process databases
and data quality LCA
6 4.3. Input-Output based Suh et al., 2004. (Hybrid methods) - Calculation of CO2
inventory inventory using input-
- General principles
Documentation of the MIET / CEDA
- Input-output matrices
- Comparison between process
and I/O data: hybrid methods and
use of I/O as a screening tool
- Existing softwares
7 4.4. Co-product and recycling: ISO 14041
Allocation: a tricky and crucial
Weidema et al., 2005 - Qualitative discussion
question. Main principles
on given example
according to ISO (case study of Audsley, 1994 (Harmonisation of LCA in
wheat production) agriculture) HW4: Homework
Summarising example: steel Input-Output and
versus light car component. allocation
8 5. LIFE CYCLE IMPACT (Jolliet et al., 2003, Jolliet et al., 2004)
The SETAC-UNEP LCIA framework
Goedkoop et al., 2004
5.1 Introduction to Guinee et al., 2005
environmental impacts (CML 2001)
5.2 LCIA Principles and The Impact 2002 Impact Assessment method
framework (Jolliet et al., 2004)
-General principle and LCIA
- Application to the car
component case study
- Comparison between LCIA
9 6. INTERPRETATION Jolliet et al. 2005 (LCA Handbook) HW4 DUE
6.1 - Importance of interpretation
- Optimisation and product
Ecobilan et facteurs socio-
économiques: analyse coût-
5.5 Normes ISO 14000
10 6.2 Sensitivity and uncertainty McLeod, 2002 (Taylor extension series) Overall case study and
analyses uncertainty analysis
Huijbregts (uncertainty in LCA)
Monte carlo and Taylor extension
11 7. SOFTWARE EXERCISE Simapro Manual HW6: general
using SIMAPRO (paper versus
electricity hand drying)
12 8. ADVANCED TOPICS Crettaz et al., 2002
8.1 Comparative risks and (Use of benchmark dose for Toxicity Comparative risks of
impacts on human health assessment) chemicals on human
Huijbregts et al., 2005 health
- Toxicity framework
- Intake fraction, human health
effects and Human toxicity
- Damage modeling and human Hofstetter et al., 1998
Murray and Lopes, 1996 (Global burden of
13 8.2 Comparative risks and
impacts on ecosystems
US-EPA guidelines for ecotoxicological risk
- PEC/PNEC approaches, assessment
- Comparative risks and
Payet, 2004 ecosystem health
Geometric mean of
HC50 and comparative risk assessment
EU, 2000 (Technical guidance document for
8.3 Company LCA
- How to adapt LCA to the overall HW7: Practical
Green-e software documentation and manual
assessment of a company exercise on Green-e
- Case study with the Green-e
14 9. CASE STUDIES and Final project: each
CONCLUSIONS group present its
results before giving
its final report
Option Review Session
TBD Final Exam -