Prospective environmental risk assessment of nanocellulose for Europe†
The many appealing properties of nanocellulose have led to increasing interest in the material from research and industry over the past years, with the material showing potential for both industrial and consumer goods. This will unavoidably lead to increasing release of nanocellulose into the environment. Although nanocellulose is largely regarded as non-toxic, knowledge gaps surrounding its impacts on the environment and human health still exist and data remains scarce. This study aimed to quantitatively assess the environmental risk of nanocellulose by characterizing both environmental exposure and hazard. Firstly, a probabilistic species sensitivity distribution (PSSD) was developed to assess the hazard by calculating the predicted no effect concentration (PNEC) of the surface water compartment, resulting in a PNEC of 7.8 mg l−1 (mean value of the distribution). Secondly, the dynamic probabilistic material flow assessment (DPMFA) method was employed to assess the exposure by quantifying the predicted environmental concentration (PEC), using the European Union as a system boundary, and 2000 to 2025 as timeframe. This resulted in a PEC in surface water of 0.23 μg l−1 in 2015 and 2.37 μg l−1 in 2025 (mean values). The PEC and PNEC distributions allowed for the calculation of the risk characterization ratio (RCR). Results show an RCR of 6.9 × 10−5 in 2015, and 7.1 × 10−4 in 2025, implying that under the chosen assumptions there is no present or future environmental risk surrounding nanocellulose within the surface water compartment, even assuming a compound annual growth rate of 19% for nanocellulose production in upcoming years.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Open Access Articles