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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Welcome to the National Risk Management Research Laboratory's Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) website. This site's purpose is to promote the use of LCA (see definition below) to make more informed decisions through a better understanding of the human health and environmental impacts of products, processes, and activities. The site is divided into four primary areas to help educate people new to the concept of LCA, while serving as a focal point for LCA practitioners and decision makers to stay current with the field of LCA. LCAccess provides information on why one would want to perform an LCA, an overview of LCA, how to find LCI data sources, and available LCA resources.

LCA is a technique to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service, by:

    • Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases
    • Evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with identified inputs and releases
    • Interpreting the results to help you make a more informed decision

The LCA101 document, entitled "Life Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice," provides an introductory overview of Life Cycle Assessment and describes the general uses and major components of LCA. This document is an update and merger of two previous EPA documents on LCA (“Life Cycle Assessment: Inventory Guidelines and Principles” (EPA/600/R-92/245) and a previous version of “LCA101” from the LCAccess website).

It presents the four basic stages of conducting an LCA:

    • Goal and scope definition
    • Inventory analysis
    • Impact assessment
    • Interpretation

The major stages in an LCA study are raw material acquisition, materials manufacture, production, use/reuse/maintenance, and waste management. The system boundaries, assumptions, and conventions to be addressed in each stage are presented. This document is designed to be an educational tool for:

    • About the basics of LCA
    • How to conduct an LCA
    • How to manage someone conducting an LCA

Companies, federal facilities, industry organizations, and academia can benefit from learning how to incorporate environmental performance based on the life cycle concept into their decision-making processes. This report was submitted in fulfillment of contract 68-C02-067 by Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) under the sponsorship of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This report covers a period from December 2005 to May 2006, and work was completed as of May 30, 2006.

LCA 101 document (PDF) (87 pp, 1.3 MB) All Chapters

Alternatively, you may download the document as separate chapters as follows:

Chapter 1 (PDF) (13 pp, 130 KB)
Chapter 2 (PDF) (12 pp, 173 KB)
Chapter 3 (PDF) (27 pp, 492 KB)
Chapter 4 (PDF) (8 pp, 162 KB)
Chapter 5 (PDF) (9 pp, 104 KB)
Appendices (PDF) (18 pp, 450 KB)

For information on other LCA resources, click on LCA Resources.

Risk Management Research: Air & Climate Change Research | Water Research | Ecosystems Restoration Research | Land Research | Technology Research: Sustainable Technology | Environmental Technology Verification Program (ETV) | Technology Assessments

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