Tracking chemicals in products around the world: introduction of a dynamic substance flow analysis model and application to PCBs

Dynamically tracking flows and stocks of problematic chemicals in products (CiPs) in the global anthroposphere is essential to understanding their environmental fates and risks. The complex behaviour of CiPs during production, use and waste disposal makes this a challenging task. In this study, the authors introduce and describe a dynamic substance flow model, named Chemicals in Products – Comprehensive Anthropospheric Fate Estimation (CiP-CAFE), which facilitates the quantification of time-variant flows and stocks of CiPs within and between seven interconnected world regions and the generation of global scale emission estimates. CiP-CAFÉ was applied to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), first to evaluate its ability to reproduce previously reported global-scale atmospheric emission inventories and second to illustrate its potential applications and merits. CiP-CAFE quantifies the pathways of PCBs during production, use and waste disposal stages, thereby deducing the temporal evolution of in-use and waste stocks and identifying their long-term final sinks. Time-variant estimates of PCB emissions into air, water and soil can be attributed to different processes and be fed directly into a global fate and transport model. By capturing the international movement of PCBs as technical chemicals, and in products and waste, CiP-CAFE reveals that the extent of global dispersal caused by humans is larger than that occurring in the natural environment. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the model output is most sensitive to the PCB production volume and the lifetime of PCB-containing products, suggesting that a shortening of that lifetime is key to reducing future PCB emissions.

Authors: Li L, Wania F. ;Full Source: Environment International. 2016 Jul 15. pii: S0160-4120(16)30263-X. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.07.005. [Epub ahead of print] ;