A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment is done to identify the environmental impacts of chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated timber used for highway guard rail posts, to understand the processes that contribute to the total impacts, and to determine how the impacts compare to the primary alternative product, galvanized steel posts. Guard rail posts are the supporting structures for highway guard rails. Transportation engineers, as well as public and regulatory interests, have increasing need to understand the environmental implications of guard rail post selection, in addition to factors such as costs and service performance. This study uses a life cycle inventory (LCI) to catalogue the input and output data from guard rail post manufacture, service life, and disposition, and a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) to assess anthropogenic and net greenhouse gas (GHG), acidification, smog, ecotoxicity, and eutrophication potentially resulting from life cycle air emissions. Other indicators of interest also are tracked, such as fossil fuel and water use. Comparisons of guard rail post products are made at a functional unit of one post per year of service. This life cycle assessment (LCA) finds that the manufacture, use, and disposition of CCA-treated wood guard rails offers lower fossil fuel use and lower anthropogenic and net GHG emissions, acidification, smog potential, and ecotoxicity environmental impacts than impact indicator values for galvanized steel posts. Water use and eutrophication impact indicator values for CCA-treated guard rail posts are greater than impact indicator values for galvanized steel guard rail posts.
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