Defining intake fraction

Publication Type

Journal Article



Activities such as comparative risk analysis, life-cycle assessment, emissions trading and sustainable development are creating a growing demand for reliable and consistent information about the potential adverse effects of the thousands of chemicals released to the environment. This demand has fostered measurement and modeling efforts that link emissions to the resulting human exposures and subsequent health effects for a wide range of human products and activities, such manufacture and disposal of consumer goods, cooking, smoking, energy conversion, industrial production, and agriculture. For many pollutants, a preliminary estimate of the human health risk that is posed by an environmental release can be determined from the combination of three factors: (1) the quantity released; (2) the incremental intake per unit release; and (3) the risk of adverse effect per unit intake. This paper addresses the second term, the emissions-to-intake relationship. As discussed in a recent literature review, several researchers have independently developed similar approaches for relating source emissions to human intake for various pollutants and exposure pathways. Consequently, multiple terms, definitions, and units exist for what appears to be a single, yet multifaceted concept. But there are inconsistencies both in terminology and definitions among various researchers quantifying emissions-to-intake relationships. Differences in definitions leads to unnecessary complexity in comparing results from different research groups. Inconsistency in terminology when the same quantity is being calculated leads to further lack of transparency. We formed a working group and prepared this article to communicate our recommendations. for a set of terms and associated definitions that are descriptive, simple, accurate, and consistent both with common usage and usage in all relevant disciplines; are flexible to permit application over a broad range of potential uses; and reflect consensus among a large number of researchers. We propose the term intake fraction (iF) as the primary label for quantifying the emissions-to-intake relationship. Because the effort to employ intake fraction is in its early stages and is gaining momentum, now is the time to build consensus on terminology. Doing so will allow us to communicate more effectively both among ourselves and also with practitioners in related fields.


Environmental Science & Technology



Year of Publication



Research Areas