Intake fraction for multimedia pollutants: A tool for life cycle analysis and comparative risk assessment

Deborah H Bennett, Manuele D. Margni, Thomas E. McKone, Olivier Jolliet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


We employ the intake fraction (iF) as an effective tool for expressing the source-to-intake relationship for pollutant emissions in life cycle analysis (LCA) or comparative risk assessment. Intake fraction is the fraction of chemical mass emitted into the environment that eventually passes into a member of the population through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposure. To date, this concept has been primarily applied to pollutants whose primary route of exposure is inhalation. Here we extend the use of iF to multimedia pollutants with multiple exposure pathways. We use a level III multimedia model to calculate iF for TCDD and compare the result to one calculated from measured levels of dioxin toxic equivalents in the environment. We calculate iF for emissions to air and surface water for 308 chemicals. We correlate the primary exposure route with the magnitudes of the octanol-water partition coefficient, K ow, and of the air-water partitioning coefficient (dimensionless Henry constant), K aw. This results in value ranges of K ow and K aw where the chemical exposure route can be classified with limited input data requirements as primarily inhalation, primarily ingestion, or multipathway. For the inhalation and ingestion dominant pollutants, we also define empirical relationships based on chemical properties for quantifying the intake fraction. The empirical relationships facilitate rapid evaluation of many chemicals in terms of the intake. By defining a theoretical upper limit for iF in a multimedia environment we find that iF calculations provide insight into the multimedia model algorithms and help identify unusual patterns of exposure and questionable exposure model results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-918
Number of pages14
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative risk assessment
  • Exposure
  • Intake fraction
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Multimedia modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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