Integrating risk assessment and life cycle assessment: A case study of insulation

Nishioka Y, Levy J I, Norris G A, Wilson A, Hofstetter P, Spengler J D (2002)

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Risk Analysis 22(5):1003 – 1017


Increasing residential insulation can decrease energy consumption and provide public health benefits, given changes in emissions from fuel combustion, but also has cost implications and ancillary risks and benefits. Risk assessment or life cycle assessment can be used to calculate the net impacts and determine whether more stringent energy codes or other conservation policies would be warranted, but few analyses have combined the critical elements of both methodologies. In this article, we present the first portion of a combined analysis, with the goal of estimating the net public health impacts of increasing residential insulation for new housing from current practice to the latest International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2000). We model state-by-state residential energy savings and evaluate particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5, NOx, and SO2 emission reductions. We use past dispersion modeling results to estimate reductions in exposure, and we apply concentration-response functions for premature mortality and selected morbidity outcomes using current epidemiological knowledge of effects of PM2.5 (primary and secondary). We find that an insulation policy shift would save 3 × 1014 British thermal units or BTU (3 × 1017 J) over a 10-year period, resulting in reduced emissions of 1,000 tons of PM2.5, 30,000 tons of NOx, and 40,000 tons of SO2. These emission reductions yield an estimated 60 fewer fatalities during this period, with the geographic distribution of health benefits differing from the distribution of energy savings because of differences in energy sources, population patterns, and meteorology. We discuss the methodology to be used to integrate life cycle calculations, which can ultimately yield estimates that can be compared with costs to determine the influence of external costs on benefit-cost calculations.

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