Environmental prices, developed by CE Delft, are in widespread use for monetising and evaluating the risks to human health, ecosystems and buildings/materials of using certain materials or products. In constructing such prices, the human toxicity element is recognised as an area of major uncertainty, however. The health impacts of the majority of substances are not known with any precision, although the true impacts could be immense. The available figures are believed to be vastly underestimated, as the assessments have only considered substances with well-characterised causal relationships, ignoring numerous hazardous substances owing to the unavailability of human exposure data.
This study focuses on the epidemiological evidence available for nine substances (mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, benzo[a]pyrene, bisphenol A, dibutyl phthalate, Chlorpyrifos and Glyphosate) used in high quantities in the EU, with well-known hazardous properties and copious literature on their toxicity.
Our approach can facilitate and open new avenues for more rapid evaluation of substances even when there is only limited epidemiological data available. The method has a number of major uncertainties, though. The main shortcoming in the results of this study is that it is often hard to establish a correlation between exposure and physiological impact and that our method has difficulty deriving unit damage costs, as these depend critically on estimated emissions.