Toxicity potentials of TiO2 nanoparticles

Studies have shown that releases of nanoparticles may take place through the life cycle of products embedding nanomaterials, thus resulting in potential impacts on ecosystems and human health. While several life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have assessed such products, only a few of them have quantitatively addressed the toxic impacts caused by released nanoparticles, thus leading to potential biases in their conclusions.

Here, we address this gap and aim to provide a framework for calculating comparative toxicity potentials (CTP) for nanoparticles and derive CTP values for TiO2 nanoparticles (TiO2-NP) for use in LCA. We adapted the USEtox 2.0 consensus model to integrate the SimpleBox4Nano fate model, and we populated the resulting model with TiO2-NP specific data. We thus calculated CTP values for TiO2 nanoparticles for air, water and soil emission compartments for freshwater ecotoxicity and human toxicity, both cancer effects and non-cancer effects.

Our results appeared plausible after benchmarking with CTPs for other nanoparticles and substances present in the USEtox database, while large differences were observed with CTP values for TiO2 nanoparticles published in earlier studies. Assumptions, which were performed in those previous studies because of lack of data and knowledge at the time they were made, primarily explain such discrepancies. For future assessment of potential toxic impacts of TiO2 nanoparticles in LCA studies, we therefore recommend the use of our calculated CTP.