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Material Flow Modelling for Environmental Exposure Assessment – A Critical Review of Four Approaches Using the Comparative Implementation of an Idealized Example

Authors
Bornhöft, Nikolaus A. (Empa St. Gallen/University of Zurich)
Search for Nikolaus A. Bornhöft in Research Programmes Information System
Nowack, Bernd (Empa St. Gallen)
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Hilty, Lorenz M. (Empa St. Gallen/University of Zurich)
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Chapter ICT for LCA and Material Flow Analysis
Volume Proceedings of the 27th Conference on Environmental Informatics - Informatics for Environmental Protection, Sustainable Development and Risk Management
Conference Environmental Informatics and Renewable Energies
Hamburg, 2013
Year 2013
Abstract of the Article
Newly developed materials such as engineered nanomaterials are produced in increasing amounts and applied in a
growing number of products. Once released to the environment, they can pose a hazard to ecosystems and human
health. To assess potential risks, the exposure of the material to humans and the environment has to be determined.
For many materials such as engineered nanomaterials, a quantitative measurement of environmental concentrations is
not feasible. Material flow models can be used to determine these concentrations indirectly by predicting material
flows in the environment. Several modelling approaches can be applied to represent existing knowledge about the
flows of materials into and between environmental media or compartments and to consider the uncertainty and variability
of the input parameters. In this study we evaluate four existing approaches with regard to their capabilities for
indirect exposure assessment, focusing on their ability to treat uncertainty. We first explain how we preselected the
four most promising modelling approaches: material flow analysis, system dynamics, material flow networks, and
probabilistic material flow analysis. We then define a set of evaluation criteria based on the requirements of environmental
exposure assessment and develop a simplified example system that is designed to test these criteria. Based
on the comparative modelling and implementation of the example system, we discuss the capabilities and limitations
of the approaches and indicate what is missing for a reliable environmental exposure prediction using material flow
modelling.
Pages 379 - 388
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