Report on the 1st International Conference on Environmental Safety and Ecological Criteria
Kenny Leung, SETAC Asia/Pacific Immediate Past President and University of Hong Kong, China, and Xiaowei Zhang, Nanjing University, China
ICESEC participants (left to right): Jiachun Ge (Jiangsu Freshwater Research Centre), Zhen Wang (Hong Kong University), Stuart Simpson (Centre for Environmental Contaminants Research, Australia), Honglin Liu (Nanjing University), John P Giesy (University of Saskatchewan), Wei Shi (Nanjing University), Xiaowei Zhang (Nanjing University), Kenny Leung (Hong Kong University), Changsheng Qu (Jiangsu Academy of Environmental Research), and Xiaowei Jin (National Environmental Monitoring Centre)
With more than 1.3 billion people and rapid urbanization and industrialization, China faces environmental challenges that present unprecedented challenges. China has already done a lot to fight against chemical pollution in air, waters and soils by establishing and enforcing discharge limits. To improve water quality, China has been building more sewage treatment plants and infrastructure for collecting sewage, and has embarked on developing its own water quality criteria systems that provide management tools for improving water quality and enabling better environmental risk assessment at regional and national levels.
With this background, the Chinese Society of Toxicology Committee of Environmental and Ecotoxicology, the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences Committee of Environmental Standards and Criteria, and the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences jointly hosted the 1st International Conference on Environmental Safety and Ecological Criteria (ICESEC 2013) at Jiangsu Conference Center, Nanjing, China, from 30 June–2 July 2013. ICESEC 2013 was co-organized and co-sponsored by SETAC Asia/Pacific, Nanjing University, the University of Hong Kong and other organizations in Nanjing.
There were more than 300 participants from 10 different countries attending this important conference, which consisted of two days of oral presentations. On the first day, all participants gathered together in a large conference hall for the entire day. The conference was kicked off by a formal opening ceremony with government officials and representatives from co-organizing organisations. On behalf of SETAC, Kenny Leung delivered warm welcoming remarks and briefly introduced the history, mission and vision of SETAC. Kenny also delivered the exciting news about the formation of the SETAC Chinese Chapter in 2014 and invited people to join our Society.
Following the opening ceremony, there were, in total, eleven 30-minute keynote lectures given by both local and international experts on a wide range of topics related to setting environmental quality benchmarks for chemical contaminants, for both air and water quality management. Many of the keynote speakers, including Kyungho Choi, John Giesy, Jussi Kukkonen, Kenny Leung and Stuart Simpson, are also fellow SETAC members. Kyungho discussed the combined toxic effects of pharmaceuticals as emerging environmental contaminants on fish and their implications for setting appropriate regulatory limits for these chemicals. John Giesy spoke about how to develop ecological effect thresholds for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) for fish and bird species. Jussi Kukkonen and Stuart Simpson talked about recent developments and critical considerations for setting and applying sediment quality guidelines in Australia/New Zealand and Europe, respectively. Kenny gave an interesting critique on temperature-dependent chemical toxicity models and their influence on derivation of water quality criteria for protecting aquatic life. The keynotes given by local speakers were equally excellent. For instance, Professor Wenxing Wang detailed the air pollution trends and problems in China and the latest development of more stringent air quality criteria for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other pollutants. Professor Wei Meng spoke about the challenges of sustainable development and use of water resources in China, and told how the newly developed water quality criteria systems could help the country gradually achieve its management targets in a stepwise manner. Participants agreed that we learned a great deal from these keynotes, particularly about the current pressing environmental management issues in China.
On the second day, there were four concurrent sessions with 64 talks in total, covering themes related to environmental chemistry, environmental toxicology, and environmental quality criteria and standards. Most of these talks were conducted in Chinese.
During the conference, participants were able to meet old and new friends, and establish collaboration during the lunches, coffee breaks, happy hours and dinners. All of us gained some weight because of the wonderful Chinese food. On the final day, participants had a chance to visit historical and scenic places, and enjoyed special local food in Nanjing. The tour was very enjoyable indeed.
Overall, the ICESEC 2013 was a very successful conference and strongly impressed us that China has been moving very fast in environmental science and application of science in environmental management. China has been very keen on solving its environmental problems with actions. Although it started national projects to set or modify its water quality criteria system only a few years ago, China now is becoming the leader in this field in Asia as reflected by its impressive number of high-quality publications in peer-reviewed journals in the field. We look forward to the ICESEC 2014 and beyond and to learning more about environmental advancement in China.
During the conference, we also learned that the 2nd International Conference on Deriving Environmental Quality Standards for the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems (EQSPAE) will be held in South Korea in 2015, after the first fruitful meeting (EQSPAE-2011) held in Hong Kong. More information will be made available on the SETAC website in due course.
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