Dependence of intake fraction on release location in a multimedia framework: A case study of four contaminants in North America

Matthew MacLeod, Deborah H Bennett, Merike Perem, Randy L. Maddalena, Thomas E. McKone, Don Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


A defining feature of industrial ecology is the design of processes to minimize any disruption of the functioning of the natural ecosystem that supports life, including human beings. The extent of human exposure to anthropogenic contaminants in the environment is a complex function of the amount of chemical emitted, its physicochemical properties and reactivity the nature of the environment, and the characteristics of the pathways for human exposure, such as inhalation, dermal contacts, and intake of food and water For some chemicals, the location of emissions relative to areas of high population density or intense food production may also be an important factor. We explore the relative importance of these variables using the regionally segmented Berkeley-Trent (BETR) North America contaminant fate model and data for food production patterns and population density for North America. The model is applied to four contaminants emitted to air: benzene, carbon tetrachloride, benzo[a]pyrene, and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. The total continental intake fraction (iF), relating exposure quantity to emission quantity, is employed as a metric for assessing population exposure to these contaminants. Results show that the use of continentally averaged parameters for population density and food production provides an accurate estimate of the median of iF calculated for emissions in individual regions; however, iF can range from this median by up to 3 orders of magnitude, especially for chemicals transferred to humans through foods. The locations of population and food production relative to sources of chemicals are important variables that should be considered when assessing the possible human health impacts of chemical emissions as in life-cycle assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative impact assessment
  • Dietary exposure pathway
  • Exposure
  • Health effects
  • Multimedia modeling
  • Site dependency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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