The tool for the reduction and assessment of chemical and other environmental impacts (TRACI) is described along with its history, the research and methodologies it incorporates, and the insights it provides within individual impact categories.
TRACI, a stand-alone computer program developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, facilitates the characterization of environmental stressors that have potential effects, including ozone depletion, global warming, acidification, eutrophication, tropospheric ozone (smog) formation, ecotoxicity, human health criteria-related effects, human health cancer effects, human health noncancer effects, fossil fuel depletion, and land-use effects. TRACI was originally designed for use with life-cycle assessment (LCA), but it is expected to find wider application in the future.
To develop TRACI, impact categories were selected, available methodologies were reviewed, and categories were prioritized for further research. Impact categories were characterized at the midpoint level for reasons including a higher level of societal consensus concerning the certainties of modeling at this point in the cause-effect chain. Research in the impact categories of acidification, smog formation, eutrophication, land use, human cancer, human noncancer, and human criteria pollutants was conducted to construct methodologies for representing potential effects in the United States. Probabilistic analyses allowed the determination of an appropriate level of sophistication and spatial resolution necessary for impact modeling for each category, yet the tool was designed to accommodate current variation in practice (e.g., site-specific information is often not available). The methodologies underlying TRACI reflect state-of-the-art developments and best-available practice for life-cycle impact assessment (LCIA) in the United States and are the focus of this article. TRACI's use and the impact of regionalization are illustrated with the example of concrete production in the northeastern United States.