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SETAC Nantes Session Summaries
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Session Summaries from SETAC Nantes

The recently concluded SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting was another successful meeting, attracting 2010 delegates who could choose from 575 platform and 1133 poster presentations. The theme of the meeting was “Environmental contaminants from land to sea: continuities and interface in environmental toxicology and chemistry.” These session summaries provide examples of presentations and discussions during the meeting.

Read a summary of the meeting from the perspective of the meeting co-chairs.

    Summaries Published in the October Issue (Volume 17 Issue 10)

  • Communicating Research Findings and Uncertainties: Strategies, Tools and New Platforms for Environmental Sciences Thomas-Benjamin Seiler and Leonie Nuesser, RWTH Aachen University, Mattia Meli, ADAMA Europe, and Erica K Brockmeier, University of Liverpool
    • The general public is a diverse group in terms of how they perceive science issues and how they react to risk in the course of dialogue on specific issues. On one hand, they are receipients of news and insights from science, and on the other hand, they are processing this information and sharing information directly or after their own interpretation of the messages with colleagues and friends. As consumers of news, the general public greatly influences what goes into the headlines of news media, especially now with the increasing reach of social media. In this way, the general public can have a direct and indirect impact on policies and political parties when acting as both users and interpretors of this information.

      Because of the potential impact of scientific research and the need for accurate information to be conveyed in the public forum, appropriate communication of environmental research, risks and issues is both important yet also challenging. A misunderstanding of information or concepts will lead to false knowledge or interpretations; it can decrease the successes of communicating findings of the benefits and associated risks of the research and can even raise false concerns.

      For the session held at the SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting in Nantes, France, we invited communication scientists and experts to share their insights on the do's and don‘ts, the pros and cons, and the must-haves and no-gos in science and risk communication. The session was part of the ongoing activity of the SETAC Europe advisory group on science and risk communication (SCIRIC).

      Organized as a poster corner, the session provided a platform for a lively discussion between presenters and the audience. Many in attendance also reported their own cases, issues and experiences. Seven presentations from academia, business and government covered a broad range of communication approaches to the public.

      Dragan Jevtić presented the communication strategy of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), with a special focus on their website, “Chemicals in our Life.” He lead the audience through the different sections of the website and the communication ideas associated with the website structure. ECHA’s goal is to offer complete information on chemicals at the fingertips of everyone in order to maximize transparency of information and gain the confidence of the general public in the context of environmental and human safety. Critical remarks of this approach included that simply providing all available information without guidance or interprestation does not necessarily lead to a well-informed public. It was suggested that ECHA  should also take care to educate lay persons in how to use the information in a responsible way.

      While a large organization such as ECHA certainly has sufficient capacity to build an attractive website and keep information up-to-date with trained staff, university institutes often have to rely on the capabilities and willingness of volunteer staff, such as students. Limited resources are among the strongest obstacles towards meaningful science communication. Mirco Bundschuh on behalf of the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany presented the EcotoxBlog. The blog started as a small project, but thanks to engaging writing and regular updates, it developed into an information platform on environmental research and has readers from all over the world. Bundschuh reported on a good experience with supporting the blog via Facebook and Twitter, which are used to make people aware of new posts. The blog managers also feature posts in internal newsletters and keep readers informed through an RSS feed. This very promising and encouraging example of successful science communication is backed by two student bloggers, who take care of and keep the blog active and engaging. It was the general consensus that science communication needs resources in terms of manpower in order to maintain these types of activities for the long run and that there is a strong lack of awareness of this need at many research institutions.

      When resources for a continuous communication campaign are not available or more general concepts of a research topic need to be communicated, game-based approaches offer a strong alternative to blogs or informative websites. Helena Serra of the University of Bordeaux, France, presented an online game tool used to transmit freshwater ecology concepts. Players have to find resources to build up a stable fish population. In doing so, they learn about ecology, how populations function, and what can positively and negatively affect aquatic life. Game-based concepts are a promising implementation of David Kolb’s “Experimental Learning,” which postulates that learning success is a matter of direct experience supported and modulated by background knowledge. As discussed during the session, game-based approaches require significant resources for producing the game, be it table-top or online formats. Once developed, however, these communication activities can be played independently by members of the general public and can provide a broad means of outreach for scientists.

      Sometimes, the goal of science communication is to make stakeholders and the public aware of a specific issue rather than simply keeping them informed on general environmental research. Here, large activities are often necessary to receive the desired attention. Dayana Sosa Pacheco of CENSA in Cuba reported on a combined environmental investigation and information campaign regarding heavy metal contamination of Cuban soils, called project Soil-Q. The investigation found some sites with elevated heavy metal concentrations, primarily in agricultural soils, but no site exceeded the very strict Swiss thresholds which the project used as the benchmark. As these results clearly showed a need for continuous soil monitoring in Cuba, a film was produced and workshops were organized to inform the stakeholders and the public in order to make them aware of the potential problem. Pacheco concluded that it is easier to receive attention, which turns into action, when negative findings are presented. This presentation highlighted the apparent necessity to communicate accurately amidst catastrophes, a result of today‘s information overload in society.

      As scientists, we know that information pertaining to a specific issue is often not simply black and white, and there is always uncertainty involved. Successfully communicating scientific findings to the public, while at the same time accurately discussing the level of uncertainty in the message, is potentially the holy grail of science communication. Mattia Meli of ADAMA Europe, France, provided insighst into research on communicating the uncertainty in environmental risk assessment (ERA). He made a plea to account for uncertainty and to avoid the use of the phrase when engaging in risk communication. While the precautionary principle in ERA clearly inherits uncertainty, this concept is largely overlooked in implementation of ERA regulations and left to political responsibility, as Meli further stated. The various approaches introduced by the other presenters could assist in improving this situation, since a better understanding of scientific uncertainty is absolutely crucial for communication of environmental research.

      Science and risk communication is nowadays an essential part of environmental research. It should be taken seriously, with sufficient resources allocated, in order to engage with the public appropriately. Any communication activity should provide a clear message and open content for its intended audience. The goals of any science communication activity must also be clearly defined in order to select the most appropriate concept, tool or strategy. The session included presentations with strong examples on how to communicate environmental science within the public space. Presenters were able to demonstrate the benefits of each approach and, through active discussion after each presentation, revealed the challenges and obstacles of well-thought and goal-oriented science communication.

      This was the fifth session on science and risk communication at a SETAC Europe annual meeting since 2012. The next opportunity to present communication-related content at a SETAC conference is the 7th SETAC World Congress/SETAC North America 37th Annual Meeting, which will be held 6–10 November in Orlando, Florida. Our follow-up session is entitled, "Ideas and concepts for dissemination and communication of research findings in times of Open Science and Science 2.0". We hope to see you in Orlando to pick up our discussion on this important issue.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Summaries Published in the August Issue (Volume 17 Issue 8)

  • Passive Sampling for Organic Micropollutants and Toxicity Assessment: Opportunities, Challenges and Innovations
    Rainer Lohmann, University of Rhodes Island; Timo Hamers, VU Amsterdam; and Ron van der Oost, Waternet Institute for the Urban Water Cycle
    • The two sessions focused on advances in passive sampling (PS), and how the PS extracts could also be used for toxicity testing. The morning session described advances in passive sampling, with a particular focus on how to detect gradients of organic micro-contaminants in the environment. These gradients ranged from the continental scale, down to cm-scale resolution at the sediment–water interface, mostly focusing on hydrophobic legacy organic contaminants. The afternoon session was focused on the integration of PS and toxicity profiling.

      The morning session led off with the major spatial gradients which were reported along the European waters, both in water and porewater as part of major interlaboratory passive sampler deployments. Beyond simply looking at horizontal profiles, results were shown for PCBs and other POPs in vertical depth gradients in the Atlantic Ocean. Subsurface peaks were reported at both investigated sites across the North Atlantic. On smaller scales, a new application of the passive samplers was shown to derive gradients across the air–water interface and into the water column. This deployment was performed in Plymouth Harbour, UK, and demonstrated the high reproducibility of PS for most detected organic contaminants (PAHs, musks). An interesting results of the deployment was the detection of contaminant maxima at the air–water interface, possibly indicating spill and/or enrichment in the sea surface microlayer. A variation of this gradient scheme was to integrate the results using different passive samplers (polyethylene and silicone) and varying thicknesses to derive equilibrium concentrations in Oslofjord, Norway. This was motivated to derive porewater concentrations, possibly without needing to rely on performance reference compounds, but it is unclear whether this will be successful under field conditions.

      Staying at the sediment–water interface, a presentation covered the development of an improved benthic flux chamber. Previous benthic flux chambers did not allow for oxygen penetration into the chambers, possibly leading to a reduced flux of contaminants due to reduced or complete lack of bioturbation. The improved chamber included the pumping of water through the chamber, thus enabling benthic biota to live. In a field deployment in the Baltic Sea, fluxes measured by the novel chamber were indeed greater than in previous designs and also greater than fluxes expected from gradients derived from passive samplers across the sediment–water interface. The ensuing discussion noted questions linked to sampler design and how to assess its success in field deployments. Several presentations showed recent work on POCIS samplers, their calibration of sampling rates and utility for measuring polar contaminants. Field projects included the investigation of pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants along the River Saar, Germany. The development of a broadband passive sampler covering both polar and apolar organic contaminants was presented; while another group presented their work on a versatile active sampling approach. Clearly, a lot of progress is being made to improve sampling of a wide range of legacy and emerging contaminants in the aqueous environment.

      The afternoon session was led off with an interesting grouping of papers. Whereas traditional chemical monitoring is based on compound-by-compound target analyses of grab samples, recent research initiatives try to use more ecologically relevant monitoring techniques for environmental quality assessment. This was achieved by testing PS extracts not only with analytical chemistry but also with effect-based biological tests (bioassays). Toxicity profiling has the advantage that it directly reflects the toxicity of the complex mixture present in a sample, including unknown substances, transformation products, and compounds present at levels below their analytical limit of detection.

      The relevance of the PS–toxicity combination was demonstrated in the project Time-Integrative Passive Sampling combined with Toxicity Profiling (TIPTOP). The toxic pressure of micropollutants in Dutch rivers Meuse and Rhine was evaluated using a variety of methods:

      1. Benchmarking the observed toxicity profiles for river PS samplers to WWTP PS samplers
      2. Traditional comparison of water concentrations derived from PS results with Environmental Quality Standards (EQS)
      3. Comparison of in vitro bioassay responses to PS extracts with provisional trigger values for ecological risks
      4. Assessing the toxic pressure (expressed as potentially affected fraction of species by multiple substances [msPAF]) using PS concentrations of targeted compounds or narcotics or using responses of in vivo and in vitro bioassays exposed to PS extracts

      It was concluded that combining PS with bioassay analyses could provide a more cost-effective approach for water quality assessment. In the same project, the time-integrative properties of partitioning- and adsorption-based passive samplers were investigated. The Speedisk samplers that accumulate the more polar compounds generally showed a linear uptake of compounds during a 15 weeks sampling period, while concentrations of polar compounds were not cumulative in non-polar silicon rubbers due to the fact that equilibrium was attained. It was, however, recommended to use both samplers simultaneously in order to concentrate compounds with a broad polarity spectrum. In order to minimize laborious laboratory-based calibrations, another presentation described the development of an in silico model to estimate sampling rates (Rs) of compounds in the Polar Organic Chemicals Integrative Sampler (POCIS). The model used a selection of 24 molecular descriptors that covered topological, geometrical and physicochemical properties of the substances. It was validated with a set of 73 compounds and proved to make quite accurate predictions.

      Since bioassay responses are generally caused by a complex mixture of mainly unknown compounds, it is impossible to calculate a single PS rate for the mixture as a whole. In order to interpret the results of bioassay measurements on PS extracts, it is therefore essential to derive a more or less reliable estimation of the amount of extracted water. Some of the disadvantages of passive samplers (e.g., required calibration, dependence of exposure conditions) can be overcome by the Continuous Flow Integrative Sampler (CFIS), which was described in another presentation. This device continuously pumps water through a filter and a cell that can be equipped with different types of sorbent materials, which reduces the influence of flow velocity and biofouling. In an alternating sampling mode of this device (water pumped in two directions), the volume of water that is pumped through an HLB cartridge can be reliably assessed. If an increased toxicity is observed with bioassay measurements, it is important to identify the chemicals that are responsible for these effects. The application of in vitro bioassays together with analytical chemical identification methods in effect-directed analysis (EDA) provides a strategy to detect and identify hazardous chemicals. Since EDA procedures are generally laborious and time consuming, an alternative high throughput EDA (HT-EDA) was developed and presented in the final presentation of the session. The HT-EDA method applies ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC)-based fractionation in combination with a battery of miniaturized 384-well plate cell-based reporter gene assays performed in parallel. Chemical analysis of the other half of the UPLC fractions is performed with mass spectrometry detection. The feasibility of this method was demonstrated on extracts of silicon rubber and Speedisk passive samplers. Although certain challenges for interpretation and validation of data remain, the combination of PS and toxicity profiling is considered to be a very promising tool in water quality assessment.

      Author’s contact information:

  • Summaries Published in the July Issue (Volume 17 Issue 7)

  • Biological Effects of Emerging Micropollutants at Realistic Environmental Concentrations
    Keila Martin Betancor, University of Madrid, and Valentina E. V. Ferrero, LGC Limited
    • What are the biological effects of emerging micropollutants at realistic environmental concentrations? This question is difficult to address, due to the complexity layer imposed on realism. Realistic complexity can be understood from two perspectives, from the side of the exposure as well as the biological sensor. Considering these two aspects is essential to the understanding of how micropollutants affect ecosystems.

      Realism in exposure to emerging micropollutants requires evaluating factors such as exposure to low doses, temporal aspects of exposure (toxicodynamics), combined exposure, interactions with other natural and anthropogenic pollutants or interactions with biotic or abiotic factors. Evaluation of the issue from the perspective of the receptor requires an assessment that includes the propagation of the effects along biological scales and their relationships among biodiversity, ecosystem structure and ecosystem functioning.

      The main purpose of the session was to provide different studies or case examples demonstrating how emerging micropollutants as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, nanomaterials, with emphasis in co-exposure of them, affect organisms from different trophic levels in environmental concentrations. Some studies considered the complex interactions between different trophic levels. Varying approaches were used to reveal these issues as very sensitive analytical methods, organisms’ behavior, physiological parameters, biological biomarkers and also gene expression.

      The session was divided into two sub-sessions with eleven platforms presentations and three poster spotlights in total. In the first part of the session, five platform presentations were delivered, with three presentations addressing the effect of several pharmaceuticals to different species of mussels, an important organism in aquatic systems. These studies revealed accumulation or transformation of these compounds in realistic environmental concentrations through these non-target organisms.

      Two presentations proposed novel approaches to study the effects of pharmaceuticals, combining behavior and transcriptomics analyses in different invertebrates. One of them proposed an acute toxicity syndrome to Daphnia magna in order to categorize chemical agents based on their mode of action, and the second one proposed behavioral analyses software combined with sequencing technology in order to elucidate the effects of some antidepressants through an amphipod. Both indicated that environmentally relevant concentrations of these compounds can alter the behavior as well as gene expression profile in these organisms.

      The three poster spotlights highlighted the need of implementation of environmental risk assessment for pharmaceuticals (i.e., diclofenac, carbamazepine) and micropollutants. The new approaches proposed here will allow the evaluation of the effects of these compounds at different exposure senarios (laboratory versus mesocosm exposure studies).

      The first two presentations of the second part of the session were focused on the effects of environmentally realistic doses of pesticides or their degradation products. These papers had an emphasis with co-exposure of these compounds to plants or when plants were exposed at various trophic levels. These presentations demonstrated metabolic and molecular modifications at low levels of these product exposures, and interactions between plants and higher trophic levels were also found.

      Two studies addressed the toxicity of common nanomaterials in combination with other contaminants such as pharmaceuticals or microplastics at cell level. Nanomaterials are emerging contaminants because of new technologies; this makes their evaluation essential, either alone or in combinations with other contaminants. These studies demonstrated different responses that were toxicant specific or the combination of them using different effects as expressed in gene expression or oxidative stress at the cellular level.

      Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are one of the main entry of micropollutants into the environment, and for this reason, many studies focused on the assessment  of water contamination profiles around a WWTP using in vitro bioassays based on endocrine disruptors activities and genotoxicity. The last presentation in the session evaluated the potential toxic effects using an innovative method. This method employed magnetic microparticles for phosphorous removal in eutrophic waters at community level.

      In summary, the presentations in this session demonstrated different effects of the major emerging contaminants to organisms of varying trophic levels, and it highlighted the importance of evaluating these contaminants at realistic environmental concentrations.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials – Interactions at Nano–Bio Interface
    Francisca Fernandez-Piñas , Autonomous University of Madrid, Roberto Rosal and Georgiana Amariei, University of Alcalá
    • Consumers demand safe products, and nanosafety for the user and the environment is envisaged as a justification for further development of nanotechnologies. There are a number of intrinsic physicochemical properties of Environmental Nanomaterial Safety (ENMS), which affects the level of interaction between the nanomaterials and the cells and organisms, such as colloidal stability (the extent of agglomeration and aggregation); size, surface charge, shape and redox and catalytic activity; aspect ratio, surface coatings and functionalization, or dissolution of metallic nanomaterial. Besides the intrinsic characteristics of nanomaterials, important issues are uptake and internalization of the material by different cell systems and organisms, and if so, the intracellular fate and relationship with cell and organism toxicity.

      Nanoparticles in association with organic compounds, representing an emerging contaminant, are expected to occur together in water. Little is known on the interactions between chemicals and nanoparticles and on how these interactions may affect the biological organization of aquatic ecosystems. Recent data suggest that nanoparticles may act as carriers for other organic pollutants, facilitating their uptake and modifying their associated toxicity. The toxicological assessment of nanomaterials is expected to cover possible interactions with existing environmental contaminants and their effect on bioavailability, bioconcentration and toxicity profiles.

      The main purpose of the session was to show how nanomaterials interact with cells and organisms in many different environmental conditions, with emphasis in co-exposure of nanomaterial in association with other organic contaminants. The basic mechanisms of this action and how this interaction influences the biological activity of nanomaterials were considered in view of the implications for nanosafety assessment.

      Due to the large number of platform presentations submitted to the session, the overall session was divided into three sub-sessions. Seventeen platform presentations were delivered in the combined session. Six presentations addressed the biological effect of nanomaterials and their intrinsic properties with special emphasis in colloidal stability (agglomeration), shape, role of dissolved ion toxicity versus nanoparticle toxicity, surface charge, coatings, speciation and aging of nanoparticles. An important issue of discussion during the session was uptake and internalization and, consequently, the intracellular fate and relationship with cell toxicity. Two presentations addressed the topic of the protein corona, one describing a new method using a surface proteomic method based on nanoparticle protein corona and the other evaluating how proteins in the corona endow the nanoparticles with sex-specific biological identity. Another study described a multimodal imaging approach to localize nanoparticles in single cells.

      Two other presentations dealt with trophic interaction and potential food chain transfer of nanoparticles in aquatic ecosystems, which was deemed an important nanosafety issue.

      Four presentations evaluated the so-called “Trojan horse” hypothesis, addressing the biological effects of co-exposure of nanomaterial with other classes of pollutants. Three of the studies found a protective effect of the nanomaterials on the observed toxicity of the organic contaminant tested. The fourth study, which was very large, evaluated the interaction between different types of nanomaterial and organic contaminants using a battery of test organisms. Their main conclusion was that no general mechanisms of nanomaterial contaminant mixture effect could be determined as different types of interactive toxicity were observed.

      Finally, while most presentation dealt with aquatic ecosystems, two presentations addressed the topic of metallic nanoparticle toxicity on soil microbial communities.

      The session was also represented by 26 poster presentations, which demonstrated the biological effects of a variety of nanomaterials, both metallic and carbon-based, and which were tested in a myriad of cells and organisms.

      The “Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials – Interactions at Nano–Bio Interface” session was very successful with more than one hundred attendees for most presentations. The discussion was fruitful and dynamic with intense debate. In summary, the presented works addressed global descriptors of nanomaterials used in the environment and their associated biological activity which may be useful in safer-by-design strategies and in Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) assessment of nanomaterials.
    • Authors’ contact information:, and
  • Natural Toxins: An “On-Growing” Challenge for Environmental Research, Monitoring and Management
    Gemma Giménez Papiol, Rovira i Virgili University – Tecnatox, and James Lazorchak, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Research and Development
    • Natural toxins are defined as toxic compounds produced by organisms other than humans. The term embraces a highly diverse group of chemical compounds known to be a threat to human health and to the ecosystems where they are produced, and usually there is no mitigation action readily available after the exposure. The research on natural toxins has many challenges compared to man-made chemicals because their production depends on the living conditions of the species producing the toxins. Their availability, accumulation and fate can be hard to predict. The aim of the session was to highlight natural toxins within SETAC interests by establishing the state of the art of the environmental risk of this group of chemicals in comparison with the more traditional chemicals for which risk assessments and legislations exists, and identify the gaps in knowledge, management and research needs in this field. The number of natural toxins keeps increasing with new ones produced by microorganisms or metabolites produced by other organisms after uptaking the toxins. Research, monitoring and management on natural toxins demand a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach in order to monitor, prevent and eventually resolve the challenges they pose to ecosystems, human health and economy. Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and fungal toxins can be found worldwide in fresh and marine waters; however, some emerging toxins or the use of the so-called biopesticides are not yet regulated, and consequently they should be more carefully evaluated in order to better understand their distribution and the real hazard they represent.

      Details of the Session Talks

      High-quality research was presented in 19 posters and six platforms (two of which were candidates for the SETAC Europe Young Scientist Award). The posters dealt with cyanotoxins (toxins produced by cyanobacteria, mainly from freshwater environments), Alexandrium sp. (a toxic marine dinoflagellate), the toxicity of plant protection products (PPP, used as biopesticides), micotoxins toxicity and microbiological hazards. The platform presentations in the session were divided into two presentations about cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, two about marine toxins, and two about plant protection products.

      1. Claire Pancrace, Institute for Ecology and Environmental Science – Paris, presented “Cyanobacterial Toxins: From Genome Mining to Risk Assessment,” highlighting a genetic analysis of different Planktothix sp. strains which showed their potential for producing more toxic compounds than expected, contributing to the risk assessment and eventual management.
      2. Ondrej Adamovsky, Masaryk University – RECETOX discussed “Structure-Dependent Effects of Selected Cyanobacterial Peptides on Innate Immunity.” Adamovsky and his research group contributed with cutting-edge research on toxic effects of cyanotoxins at immunity, cell level and other novel approaches.
      3. “Occurrence of Emerging Marine Toxins in Coastal Areas of the Catalan Coast,” presented by Cristina Bosch, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research IDAEA-CSIC, featured a new analytical method developed for the detection of different marine toxins in water in order to improve their risk assessment and management.
      4. “Characterization of the Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel and Its Isoforms in the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas: Link with Its Sensitivity to Paralytic Shellfish Toxins Produced by Alexandrium minutum” was presented by Floriane Boullot, LEMAR – University of Brest. The expression of the voltage-gated sodium channels in Crassostrea gigas was analysed in different populations of oytsers and in different tissues in order to explore their role in the accumulation of paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins.
      5. Thomas Bucheli, Agroscope ART, addressed “Identifying Phytotoxins of Environmental Concern,” aiming at systematically assessing the relevance of toxins produced by plants (phytotoxins) as aquatic micropollutants.
      6. Lise Barthelmebs, from University of Perpignan, presented “Environmental Fate and Ecotoxicological Impact of Leptospermone, a Natural β-Triketone Herbicide in Soils.” The assessment was based on the bacterial community in soils from two sites with different historical exposure to leptospermone, and the results were compared to synthetic herbicides.

      The session evidenced the diversity not only of natural toxins and producing organisms, but also of approaches, techniques and spatio–temporal scales. New, high-throughput techniques are combined with more traditional analysis and applied to subjects other than human health and food production. Rationales and guidelines from other research disciplines are applied in the exploration of natural toxins from an innovative scope.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Fish Model Species in Environmental Toxicology
    Jessica Legradi, Institute for Environmental Studies – VU University, and Ioana Katsiadaki, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science – Cefas
    • The research performed with fish models covers many different fields and is not only restricted to environmental toxicology. For example, the unique characteristics of fish models like zebrafish (Danio rerio) make them also highly applicable for biomedical and biomolecular research. Zebrafish and medaka (Oryzias latipes) are several of the most used model species for studying vertebrate development. Knowledge gained from such research not only helps to better understand human development and origin of diseases, it also helps to improve our understanding of toxicological mechanisms and the impact of environmental changes on organisms. The popularity of fish models in so many different fields leads to the development of a large variety of novel assays and laboratory techniques. Thereby, the research with fish models in ecotoxicology is continuously developing further as was nicely demonstrated by the work presented by the 39 researchers during our session at the SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting in Nantes, France.

      fish model species in environmental toxicologyFish do present an amazing diversity and a huge number of species leading to many different models, each one being useful for different things. In our session, 14 different fish species were used in the fish models presented. Among them very popular laboratory species like zebrafish (Danio rerio), medaka (Oryzias latipes) or stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) were used in many of the presentations. Fish were also studied outside of the laboratory in their native environment. Prominent models for native fish models included the roach (Rutilus rutilus) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) as were more rare species such as the rainbow fish (Melanotaenia fluviatilis) and seahorse (Hippocampus reidi) employed as fish models.  Studying fish in their natural habitat allows further evaluations than simple dose–effect assessments. Genetic adaptations to environmental changes can be studied to answer the question as to whether organisms can adapt to the harmful effects caused by increased levels of contaminants in an ecosystem.  It became clear from many of these presentations that environmental toxicology goes beyond single compound exposures. For example, it is important to understand the interactions between other environmental factors, such as infections in relationship to chemical exposure.

      Besides the research on investigating toxicological effects caused by environmental mixtures, there were also a substantial amount of presentations based on the development of fish-based screening systems. One major aspect was the development of transgenic fish models for high-throughput screening of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Transgenic medaka were presented to detect ovo-testis and two transgenic zebrafish as a biosensor to detect estrogenic chemicals were shown (ERE-TG fish and cyp19a1b-GFP) and a Glucocorticoid Responsive In vivo Zebrafish Luciferase activitY (GRIZLY) assay was presented. As in sessions held in previous years, novel approaches using -omics technologies like genomics and proteomics were presented. High-content technologies like sequencing and microarrays were used to identify toxic modes of action. The session also had presentations about smart cheap-and-quick screening approaches such as the ZF-ToxArray. The impact of fish model species on environmental toxicology was highlighted by the award winning presentation which was awarded to Riccardo Massei and his work about “Detection of Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Water Samples from Novi Sad (Serbia) Using Effect-Directed Analysis.”

      To summarize the session, we were pleased with the diversity of the subject matter and the inclusion of the numerous fish models. The diversity  of the presentations were in species used, assays developed, approaches employed and the mechanisms and chemicals studied. In our opinion, it is the diversity of these presentations that makes it fun, interesting, and which will always help us to develop new ideas and to discover new things. However, we also should be cautious that this diversity is not disconnecting us from the overall aim, developing comparative studies that link laboratory experiments to ecological relevance and which are needed to improve the validity and impact of our fish models.  

      We are looking forward to the contributions for the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 7–11 May 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Standards – An Essential Link Between Environmental Science and Regulation
    Sebastian Buchinger, German Federal Institute of Hydology, Adam Lillicrap, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), and Kirit Wadhia, Fjords Processing
    • The importance of standardization, within the context of environmental sciences, is that it provides a level of international harmonization for the generation and interpretation of data, and it ensures that tests are performed using appropriate criteria. With the increasing need for more targeted hazard assessment strategies that will be required for environmental risk assessments in the future, both for aquatic and soil ecotoxicology, standard test methods are likely to play a substantial role to ensure that robust and reliable data are generated.
      Beside others, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) make significant contributions to meeting the regulatory demand for standardized test methods – the OECD focuses on the assessment of chemicals, while ISO deals with the determination of water and soil quality in both chemical analysis and biological testing. Over the last few years, important milestones have been accomplished or developments are currently in progress for new standardized test methods in environmental sciences. This session aimed to explore some of these advances by presenting instructive examples from both aquatic and soil ecotoxicology to stimulate work on the important development of standards in environmental science.

      A more general overview about the function of and the requirements for standards in environmental science was given by Andy Smith, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science – Cefas, and Renato Baudo, Italian National Research Council. Smith presented an interesting assessment of ecotoxicological data that was reevaluated where there were concerns about the quality or age of the data and the absence of any assurances relating to Good Laboratory Practice. The majority of results showed a good comparability between the old and new data. However, some results differed by more than a factor of 20 and some even several thousand-fold. Only the use of standardized methods allowed this reevaluation of ecotoxicological data. The general possibility that data either published or used for the ecotoxicological classification of a compound can be reevaluated substantially increases transparency. Using standards gives certainty that the methods used are well established and understood, can be carried out by any competent lab, and produce data suitable for the purpose. The presentation provided by Baudo added further aspects by addressing issues about the practicality of methods and raising the question if experts make right decisions during the development of a new standard. He presented examples for such decisions, including the choice to use immobility as the effect criterion for the acute Daphnia tests rather than mortality. But although such a choice might be questionable, he concluded that the strength of standard procedures in ecotoxicology is that the users have to abide by all the choices and characteristics specified and described in detail in the methodology. In other words, standards might be erroneous but are the best tool we have to generate comparable and controllable data. Concerning the second aspect, Baudo pointed out the fact that standard toxicity tests are also needed for application in a regulatory framework for routine toxicity assessment of polluted aquatic and terrestrial environments, and practicality and cost problems are in this regard a major point.

      Nicolas Pucheux, Institut National de l'Environnement Industriel et des Risques (INERIS), presented data on the performance and suitability of the international draft standard ISO/DIS 19204 Soil quality – Procedure for site-specific ecological risk assessment of soil contamination (TRIAD approach) for the quality assessment of an abandoned open pit mine. The standard describes in a general way the application of three combined lines of evidence (chemistry, ecotoxicology and ecology). The TRIAD includes different tiers in which each consecutive tier is increasingly fine-tuned according to the site-specific situation. The study investigated the ease and the efficiency in using the different tiers of this decision-helping method and whether this draft standard provided practicable results despite the complexity of the study. It was shown that for some locations, the use of the TRIAD method was feasible and allowed a time- and cost-efficient assessment of the soil quality.

      The presentations given by Marina Le Guédard, University in Bordeaux, and Michiel T.O. Jonker, Utrecht University, addressed the development of new standards. Le Guédard introduced a novel ex situ and in situ plant-biomarker–termed Omega-3 Index for the assessment of soil quality based on the fatty acid composition of leafs. The rationale of this biomarker is based on the fact that plants exposed to polluted soils show an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can target polyunsaturated fatty acids and, more particularly, linolenic acid (C18:3). Thus, a decreasing ratio of C18:3 to the sum of C18:0, C18:1 and C18:2 reflects an increase in ROS. It was shown that the Omega-3 Index is more sensitive for soil pollution compared to the endpoint biomass. Furthermore, a decreased Omega-3 Index correlated to a higher susceptibility of plants for additional stress factors such as cold and drought. This biomarker was well applicable for in situ studies using leaves of various plant species grown on a metallurgical landfill, showing a significant decrease in the Omega-3 Index on contaminated soil. Currently, there is an Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) standard of soil quality using this ex situ biomarker, and a standard method for the Omega-3 Index is currently under development through ISO.  Jonker presented the results from a comprehensively designed interlaboratory trial for passive sampling. This technique allows the quantification of compounds freely dissolved in the water phase, reflecting the bioavailable portion of these contaminants. Although well accepted and widely used within the scientific community, regulators are still cautious to implement passive sampling in actual risk assessments. Furthermore, there is no consensus among scientists on which bioavailability assessment or passive sampling approach is best to use, and the variability associated with these methods remains largely unknown. By using a tiered approach, various factors influencing the variability of results obtained by passive sampling such as passive sampling material, work protocol and chemical analysis were investigated. The results of the study demonstrated that standardizing the passive sampling methodology significantly decreased the overall inter-lab variability. The resulting variability, however, still largely exceeded the intra-lab and inter-method variability as determined by the coordinating laboratory. By performing all analyses in this laboratory, this difference could be partly explained by the substantial variability introduced through analytical chemistry. However, this suggests that when comparing standardized biological methods, error may be introduced from the chemical analysis rather than from the performance of the actual method, but this also further emphasizes the need for standardization. Jonker concluded that passive sampling is fit for implementation in risk assessment and the management of contaminated sediments when following standard protocols.

      Kirit Wadhia, Fjords Processing, concluded the session by giving an overview of the use of standardized methods and risk-based approaches in the oil industry. The key take-home messages were that any chemical (product) used offshore requires to be registered, and significant regulatory efforts are in place to address discharges in the OSPAR region (named for the original Oslo and Paris Conventions). In the case of the former, offshore control notification scheme (OCNS) is employed utilizing established standardized ecotoxicity protocols for different trophic level organisms. Concerning the latter, a risk-based approach (RBA) has been formmulated to assess environmental risk posed in identifying, prioritizing and adopting risk reducing strategies.

      Coming back to the general aspects of standardization a “jest” statement given by Baudo was that, like for any other choices made by humans, some choices for environmental toxicity standards are questionable and might have been replaced by other choices, which often appear to be not less questionable during the revision of a particular standard. If you don’t want to suffer from decisions made by others, become active and participate in standardization activities in your field of expertise – comment on ongoing standard developments, participate in interlaboratory trials or even suggest and initiate new projects. The environment will benefit immeasurably and is looking forward to your contribution.
    • Authors’ contact information:, and
  • Advances in Exposure Modeling: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Application
    Antonio Franco, Unilever, and Emma Undeman, Stockholm University
    • The use of fate models to investigate in environmental exposure of chemicals is well established in both research and regulatory practice. However, the wider range of chemicals under scrutiny, including substances with “unusual” properties, and the quest for increased ecological realism in higher-tier exposure assessment are pushing the boundaries of traditional modeling approaches.

      The purpose of this session was to address scientific and regulatory challenges towards the implementation of advanced modeling techniques for chemicals risk assessment and management. The session included 11 platform presentations, a poster spotlight and a poster session.

      Recent advances in exposure modeling were presented for organic contaminants as well as for engineered nanoparticles and radioactive materials.  The works presented covered a wide range of modeling approaches, including studies to estimate chemical current and historical emissions, spatial and temporal explicit models, the integration of multidisciplinary models, the design and coordination of monitoring activities for parameterization and evaluation of models. The major scientific challenges addressed included:

      1. Modeling the environmental behavior of complex, unusual substances
      2. Integration of models from different disciplines to improve ecological realism in environmental exposure and bioaccumulation assessments
      3. Incorporation of higher spatial and temporal resolution for higher-tier exposure assessments at various scales
      4. Methodologies to compare near-field and far-field human exposure

      The session started with two studies on the fate and behavior of engineered nanoparticles. Dik van de Meent, RIVM, presented an adaptation of the SimpleBox model for use in screening exposure assessment of nanoparticles (SimpleBox4nano). The application of the model on metal oxides nanoparticles (TiO2, ZnO and CeO) including a sensitivity analysis, which highlighted the importance of properties related to the nano-structure (e.g., dissolution rate). In the following presentation, Jenny Perez Holmberg, University of Gothenburg, explored the importance of the kinetic aspects of key processes such as dissolution, sulfidization, hetero-aggregation and sedimentation to estimate realistic time-dependent exposure estimated for silver nanoparticles. The two studies demonstrate that a new generation of exposure models is now available for screening exposure assessment of nanomaterials.

      Cyclic volatile methyl siloxanes represent another class of complex substances with “unusual properties.” Ingjerd Krogseth, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, compared a steady-state and a dynamic version of the QWASI model with measured concentrations in water and sediments in an Arctic lake. The study highlighted the benefits of combining measurements and modeling to interpret environmental concentrations and illustrated the need to incorporate the temporal variability to mechanistically rationalize observed concentration patterns in a small lentic system subject to domestic sewage overflows.

      Emma Undeman, Stockholm University, presented an application of an integrated biogeochemistry and environmental exposure model of the Baltic Sea (BaltsemPOP) to examine interactions between eutrophication and organic contaminants in marine systems. While eutrophication increased or did not change inputs from the atmosphere, the dissolved surface water concentration of many organic chemicals decreased with eutrophication.  

      An integrated simulation platform (MERLIN-Expo), including multimedia and physiologically based pharmacokinetic models, was presented by Artur Radomyski, University of Venice. The tool was applied to a complex environmental scenario (the Venice Lagoon) to estimate dynamic exposure of PCBs and PCDDs in food web compartments and in humans over long time scales.

      Exposure chemical products to humans can occur from direct human exposure (near field) and from indirect environmental exposure (far field). While regulatory human and environmental risk assessment approaches and respective exposure models are disjointed, LCA models offer an opportunity to integrate these two pathways in a consistent manner. Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan, and Alexi Ernstoff, Technical University of Denmark, presented two applications of integrated near–far field exposure assessments applied respectively to volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals in flooring materials and to a wide range of consumer product ingredients.  

      A presentation by Claudia Coll Mora, Stockholm University, introduced a novel approach to assess half-lives of organic chemicals in water. By exploiting the inverse correlation observed between the relative standard deviation of concentrations measured across a large river catchment and chemicals’ half-lives (Junge relationships), it is possible to estimate environmental persistence. The potential of the approach was demonstrated with a combination of spatial model simulations and monitoring data from the Danube River.

      John Kilgallon, Unilever, and Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan, presented the two key components of a spatially explicit model framework suitable for large-scale exposure assessment of down-the-drain chemicals. The first component is a spatially explicit tool (ScenAT) for the estimation of environmental emission and freshwater concentrations at the discharge point. It was tested for two substances in the UK. A spatial comparison of model estimates with monitoring data demonstrated the potential for use in large-scale screening assessments and for the identification of higher exposure catchments. Emission inventories obtained with the ScenAT tool were used as inputs to the global multiscale multimedia fate model Pangea developed at the University of Michigan. The Pangea model incorporates high-resolution hydrological data and a flexible parameterization that enable screening assessments over large scales as well as catchment-specific analysis.

      The final contribution to the session by Henk Jan Holterman, Wageningen University and Research Centre, was a countrywide risk assessment study for watercourses exposed to pesticides spray drift in the Netherlands. The model combines probabilistic spray drift calculations for fruit crops with a spatial description of orchards topographies, edge of field watercourses and spatio–temporal distributions of weather conditions.

      Common to the majority of discussions following platform and poster presentations was the importance of improving methods to estimate emissions, the utility of sensitivity and uncertainty analysis, including the variability and uncertainty in measured data. These are all important elements of good modeling practice, which need to be addressed from the development to the evaluation and use of exposure models to better value the model outcomes and the validity of conclusions.

      This session was supported by the SETAC Exposure Modeling Advisory Group (EMAG). We believe that the outcome of the session contributed to the EMAG’s aim of stimulating the development and the application of high-quality modeling in exposure-based assessments across the SETAC community.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • An In Silico Modeling Perspective to Advance Hazard Assessment in Aquatic Toxicology
    Paul Thomas, CEHTRA
    • This session featured six presentations, which were all well attended.  The interest in this session was high, and the participants asked the presenters many astute questions. Geoff Hodges, Unilever, gave the first presentation, and he talked about the evaluation of currently available methods for determining log Kow values of surfactants and gave an overview of comparison of different experimental and predictive methods in a study carried out by ERASM. Overall, none of the methods examined provide sufficiently comparable results where a satisfactory level of confidence could be achieved.  ERASM will be carrying out further studies to test other methods in this same manner.

      Franklin Bauer spoke next, and he presented “New Mechanism of Action Definitions Based on Molecular Initiating Events and a Classification Algorithm Based on Calculated Structure Properties.” Bauer talked about five Mechanisms of Action, dubbed “MECHoAs,” which are chemical reaction initiated events leading to potential adverse effects and are using quantic methods to classify substances into different groups likely to lead to different Adverse Outcome Pathways. This approach is distinguished from the MoA approach. 

      Ralph Kühne, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, then presented a “Fragment Model to Predict the Rate of Hydrolysis for Organic Compounds.” His work collated a database of hydrolysis information based on well over a thousand studies which he considered to be helpful in providing information on hydrolysis kinetics and ultimately would be incorporated in a freely available model, ChemProp, which was comparably better than existing models (e.g., EPISUITE).

      Joris Haftka, IRAS – University of Utrecht, presented “Development of Parameters to Predict Hydrophobicity and Sorption of Non-ionic and Anionic Surfactants” using solid-phase microextraction and high-performance liquid chromatography. In his work, he distinguished the strength of hydrophobic and ionic interactions from five classes of surfactant and used this information on specific interaction to predict BCF values and compare them against experimental data with extremely good agreement.

      Monica Nendza, Analytisches Laboratorium–Luhnstedt, presented “Replacing Fish Acute Toxicity Tests by QSAR Predictions: How Much Is Realistic?” and discussed a step-by-step scheme where she removed excess toxicity by graphically excluding points above a threshold value. By this approach, she indicated that up to 60% of fish studies on baseline toxic substance could be avoided having identified the MoA and therefore using QSARs.

      The final presentation was by Paul Thomas, called “Can We Venture Beyond Experimental Limits Using HA-QSAR Methodology?” where he identified an approach using in silico methods to determine the solubility of miscible substances by validating a solubility–toxicity regression by back-calculating from algae data. Thomas also identified solubility–toxicity cut-off points for acute toxicity and an “uncertainty window” where toxicity could only be approximated due to failure of the test substance to reach equilibrium in the test organisms within the duration of the study.

      Authors’ contact information:

  • Metalogics in Ecotoxicology: Evaluation of Alterations in the Structure and Functions of Ecosystems
    Susana Cristobal, Linköping University, K. Martin Eriksson, Chalmers University of Technology, Mechthild Schmitt-Jansen, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
    • After many years of increasing interest in the environmental -omics session under the topic “Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecotoxicology,” this year we introduced the MetaOMICs session.

      Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are the most important habitats for microorganisms in the biosphere. Microbial community structure and their associated functions are controlled by environmental factors, including soil and water properties, vegetation, water management, climate change.  Therefore MetaOMICs in ecotoxicology is starting to play a new role in the evaluation of alterations in the structure and functions of ecosystems.

      This session was focused on metaomics data analysis and its applications in ecotoxicology. We discussed the newest results from projects covering several methodological approaches from metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and metaproteomics.

      The key messages from the session are:

      1. The characterization of the entire environmental microbiota provided new features to study complex microbial communities in order to unravel these "black boxes"
      2. MetaOMICs enables a comprehensive view of metabolic activities of organisms in microbial communities and uncovers significant changes in protein expression between communities at different developmental stages, environment types or in response to different perturbations
      3. We face new technical challenges that were not an issue for classical -omics analytics, and data analysis is an area of rapid development in the field
      4. Toxicants or other anthropogenic stressors change the diversity and/or function of communities or populations, and this new frontier of -omics has now been presented in this session and can be addressed by MetaOMICs analysis.

      We are looking forward to hearing about the rapid advances in this field in subsequent years at future SETAC meetings.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Higher-Tier Tests in the Risk Assessment of Plant Protection Products
    Eric Bruns, Bayer CropScience AG, Seamus Taylor, Cambridge Environmental Assessment, Veronique Poulsen, ANSES, and Ivo Roessink, ALTERRA
    • Overall the sessions comprised 12 platform presentations on aquatic, sediment, non-target arthropod and bee-related higher-tier procedures. Nine presentations were related to aquatic higher-tier studies covering regulatory aspects as well as the use of Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSDs) and tier-3 studies, represented by pond and stream mesocosms. Six presentations were mainly focused on exposure via the water phase towards invertebrates and aquatic plants. Two presentations were focused on exposure via sediment, and one presentation gave insights into the statistical evaluation of non-target arthropod semi-field studies with a special focus on the use of the Minimum Detectable Difference (MDD) approach. The final two presentations focused on new semi-field approaches using solitary bees.

      The session started with a presentation addressing the use of aquatic mesosocsm studies in risk assessment. The current regulatory background for mesocosm studies according to existing European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidance and the problematic use of these systems within European risk assessments were outlined and discussed. This was followed by a presentation dealing with the question on how to use multiple micro/mesocosm studies for the derivation of regulatory acceptable concentrations according to the Ecological Recovery Option (ERO) and the  Ecological Threshold Option (ETO). Two presentation presented information about possible uses of stream mesocosms with respect to a more detailed investigation of vulnerable invertebrate species (e.g., Ephemeroptera,  Plecoptera, Trichoptera “EPT”-species) occurring in lotic water bodies and testing of aquatic macrophytes. The topic of EPT species was part of two presentations on indoor and outdoor mesocosm tesing as well.

      In one presentation the SSD approach was used to check the appropriateness of existing assessment factors using data from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency database.

      The increasing awareness of the sediment as a source for exposure was covered by a presentation on the EFSA “Scientific Opinion on the effect assessment for pesticides on sediment organisms in edge-of-field surface waters.” Testing possibilities and related practical difficulties were discussed in a platform presentation on the “Effects of sediment-spiked lufenuron on benthic macroinvertebrates in single species tests and outdoor microcosms.”

      In summary, it can be stated that the aquatic part of the session covered higher-tier studies in lotic and lentic systems as well as water and sediment related exposure. In addition, regulatory aspects and the topic of vulnerability were discussed.

      The last three presentations were related to semi-field tests with non-target arthropods and solitary bees. The presentation “Applying the MDD concept to terrestrial NTA studies” provided insights in statistical problems and possibilities for statistical evaluations on terrestrial semi-field studies.

      The session was closed by two presentation on new testing methodologies for semi-field studies with solitary bees.
    • Authors’ contact information:,, and
  • Life Cycle Data and Modeling Developments - From Data Collection to Usage
    Bruce W. Vigon, SETAC, Llorenç Milà i Canals, UNEP, Christoffer Krewer, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden
    • Much is happening to mainstream life cycle approaches these days. Given the criticality of well-characterized, accurate and relevant data that are readily exchangeable across the globe, this session aimed to present the range of ongoing research, development and applications to support practitioners and decision-makers. The session included presentations on forums and working activities around making data sharable in the international and national arenas from a guidance and standardization perspective.  Also included were recent developments in data publication, data review procedures and criteria, nomenclature and flow naming conventions, and ensuring user awareness of data quality characteristics during dataset development and data selection. The latter is often referred to as the documentation of metadata, and efforts towards agreeing on common frameworks on metadata reporting were also discussed.

      Emerging trends noted from the presentations:

      1. A number of ongoing initiatives relate to enhancing access to data.  Data are critical to performing credible and accurate life cycle assessments (LCAs) at both the inventory and impact assessment phases.  Although the most intensive focus is on improving access and dissemination to inventory data, some researchers are looking at the additional, more spatially and temporally resolved data requirements within inventories that are needed to satisfy emerging characterization factor models in impact assessment.  This is especially true for impact categories at regional or smaller scales and for those, like water scarcity and land use, which have an inherently spatial nature. Particular talks with relevance to this area included:
        1. Global LCA Data Access Network (GLAD) can act as an infrastructure harnessing scattered initiatives and bring them together to serve the user community. Within this dialogue, cooperation on and access to global data has been identified as a must in order to reduce the cost and increase applicability of LCA studies in the context of a global economy. Therefore, several dozen countries, with the support of UNEP, launched the Global Network of Interoperable LCA databases (the “Global Network”) and agreed on a shared ambition that by 2017 the LCA user has a global and easy access to the main LCA databases with assessment of “fitness for purpose.”
        2. BONSAI brings supply/use (input/output) databases into a more accessible form. Although much of this talk was about the technical infrastructure being utilized, the speaker also described the philosophy and intent of the developers to serve as “an open source community initiative.”  Attributes such as the low barrier for adding data to the database and allowing conflicting data source to co-exist, with supported data quality scoring and review, could make this an example for other databases to emulate.  Algorithms for quality-scoring and consolidation to provide thresholds for temporary inclusion or exclusion and to derive preferred data points could also be subject to external stakeholder and expert input to effect improvements over time.
        3. Enhancing credibility of published data through independent review was the subject of a UNEP project. The intent of the review was not to validate or judge whether the datasets exhibited sufficient quality for publication but rather to encourage improvements, either prior to publication or as part of a continuous improvement cycle. The developed review process consisted of developing a set of review criteria for this specific effort (but which eventually could be generally applied); establishing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the data provider and reviewer; providing a review report for each dataset that assesses the presence, magnitude and implications for qualifying usage regarding deficiencies relative to the criteria; and synthetizing a report on the review that overviews the effort and integrates lessons learned. Challenges included:
          1. Agreeing on NDA terms with data providers took more time than expected due to countries’ specific requirements
          2. Need for sufficient information: Datasets have to be provided with details on underlying unit processes, accompanied by the detailed description of what has been modelled and how
        4. Visualizing metadata of existing datasets. The impression is that LCA practice is getting more oriented towards open access thinking, in particular for the use of life cycle commodity databases. Building on such free knowledge, however, can imply a lack of standardization and pose additional issues for the consistency and quality of shared data. Improving and harmonizing metadata could reduce such issues. Information to build databases or update models may be retrieved from open access portals. The value of such information can be increased by using and combining datasets coming from different data sources. However, metadata from such sources are not always easy to understand and exploit. This intensifies the complexity of searching and filtering datasets. Thus, beyond the necessity to increase their readability, metadata need to be better exploited for more consensual, replicable and transparent dissemination and use. To this end, a novel visualization technique was presented to organize metadata related to a group of life cycle datasets.
        5. Facilitating data exchange. Data collection is considered as one of the more time consuming stages of a life cycle assessment, while on the other hand data is available but needs to be processed from all kinds of repositories. A novel approach to rapidly create a reliable and sound data base is tested. The SuBoot (Sustainability Bootstrap) Project is built around three key ideas:
          1. The request from consumers to consider sound, reasonable information about the sustainability of products at point of sale
          2. Opportunities for businesses to increase their revenues and market shares if they focus on green and ethically produced goods
          3. Inclusion of alternative sources for sustainability information which are “untapped” today.
          The aim is, therefore, to be a system to massively collect life cycle and sustainability data from primary sources and make it available in supply chains and to end users, empowering consumers by providing life cycle sustainability information at the point of sale, within project teams or through the supply chain. Cloud-based services are also becoming increasingly important.

      Overall, within this area it is interesting to see how future developments in LCA data and databases are coming to life, including also the access to “non-LCA” data that help inform sustainability assessments. It is also encouraging that the community is embracing new information technologies to enhance LCA (for example, JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data [JSON-LD] and Resource Description Framework [RDF]) when these concepts were just aspirational when the scenarios, covered by the forward-looking work group at the Global Guidance Principles for LCA Databases Pellston Workshop®, were first published in 2011.

      1. Improving accuracy and decreasing uncertainty of data by enhancing the modeling and realism of modeling emissions (e.g., during plastics use phase, recycling) or of infrastructure (such as “water grid” and wastewater treatment) while some focused on improving accuracy and interpretability of LCA results (e.g., by addressing and estimating uncertainty of results). As an example, the innovations in wastewater treatment process modeling enhance understanding of exchanges with the technosphere and the environment taking into account the expected behavior of individual chemicals in waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) and in the environment. The model covers treatment of organic and inorganic chemicals, and input variables by the user include chemical-specific data (composition, physical–chemical properties, half-lives and fate factors in WWTPs) as well as scenario variables (percent of the population connected to WWTPs, country, nutrient removal in WWTPs, sludge disposal scenario including landfill, incineration and agriculture).
      2. Some presentations were about novel models (e.g., emission models, models dealing with spatial and temporal variations, etc.). Tools for simulating process data where processes are not currently deployed at industrial scale, enabling valid pre-commercial comparisons (e.g., waste treatment and biomass conversion) are essential for incorporating emerging technologies in comparative LCAs.  Data collection for LCAs of new technologies is challenging (instability of lab and pilot scale, up-scaling uncertainties). The integration of process computational tools within Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) models would be beneficial.  Two presentations in the session demonstrated the utility of these models. One is the FP7 project Value from Urine (VFU), where an innovative urine treatment process has been developed to recover nutrients and increase the efficiency of WWTPs.

      There are strong ongoing global trends about scientific open access publications, which sometimes also include underlying data, and there are also trends that cover public sector data and digitalization in society in general. It can be expected that there will be an increasing pressure on the LCA community from the outside to publish data, but as could be seen during the session, there is also pressure or a need from the inside to be able to publish data in efficient ways. Meanwhile LCA data management can also benefit from the trends, for example by using the requirements as a motor and by benefitting from the capacity building of digitalization in general. Some of the IT-related presentations showed that recent developments in data science are being used when designing infrastructures which may be a prerequisite in order to meet the requirements. It is worth pointing out that LCA is a data intensive analysis, which makes the management of data itself a crucial issue in order to make it broadly used in society.

      Authors’ contact information:,,

  • A Focus on Research and Education Tools in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
    Christian Mougin, INRA, and Wilfried Sanchez, FCS Rovaltain
    • This session was the first attempt at a SETAC Europe meetings to present recent developments in Europe concerning:

      1. The most relevant networks and means involved in the coordination, planning and investment in research and training
      2. The main research infrastructures, major devices and technical platforms for research, including data storage and management, that can be offered to ecotoxicologists
      3. The educational and training programs in the fields covered by SETAC, including webinars
      4. The presentation of international research programs, including European opportunities

      The session featured six platform presentations and attracted between 50 and 60 participants. Three presentations addressed infrastructures and devices for research in ecotoxicology, one with an international network and two with training courses in ecotoxicology. They were supplemented by six poster presentations.

      The key points for the platform presentations are as follows:

      1. Christian Mougin, INRA, introduced the session and presented a coordinated set of ecosystem research platforms open to international research in ecotoxicology, within the infrastructure AnaEE-France. The infrastructure is an integrated network of the major French experimental, analytical and modeling platforms dedicated to the biological study of continental ecosystems, both aquatic and terrestrial. Opening of the infrastructure to new partners has been discussed.
      2. MOSAIC, a web interface with modeling and statistical tools for ecotoxicology, was presented by Sandrine Charles, University Lyon 1. MOSAIC is a user-friendly web interface dedicated to the mathematical and statistical modeling of standard bioassay data. Its simple use makes it a turnkey decision-making tool for ecotoxicologists and regulators.
      3. Anthony Luttmann, University of Lorraine, presented ImpactE, an emerging innovation center in environmental performance of processes, products and ecosystems. ImpactE aims at transferring scientific knowledge and technical skills in ecology, ecotoxicology, microbiology, bio-geochemistry and physico-chemistry from the laboratory to the industry.
      4. The NORMAN Network was then presented by Valeria Dulio, Ineris. The network enhances the exchange of information on emerging environmental substances, and it encourages the validation and harmonization of common measurement methods and monitoring tools so the requirements of risk assessors and risk managers can be better met. It specifically seeks to both promote and benefit from the synergies between research teams from different countries in the field of emerging substances.
      5. David Siaussat, University Pierre and Marie Curie – Sorbonne Universities, presented the training of master’s degree program for “Ecophysiology and Ecotoxicology” from the University Pierre and Marie Curie – Sorbonne Universities in Paris. This training involves many researchers developing ecophysiology and ecotoxicology research on different models (micro-organisms, plants and animals) living in aquatic and terrestrial environments, as well as various organizations and companies working in the field of ecotoxicology. Supervision of students during and after the training was discussed.
      6. Finally, Lise Parent, University of Québec, presented PROFÉCIA, a project of open and online training programs in aquatic ecotoxicology. It is carried out by ÉcoBIM, the international research network in aquatic ecotoxicology combining researchers from Québec, Canada, and France, who shared projects research in aquatic ecotoxicology. The training program incorporated different credited modules consisting of digital educational resources available online as well as methodological harmonization workshops.

      The conclusions from the session are:

      1. The session seemed appreciated, and the topics presented during this first edition should be reinforced in the next meetings.
      2. Platforms presentations involved mainly French presenters and should mobilize international scientists concerned with European research and education tools in environmental toxicology and chemistry.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Summaries Published in the June Issue (Volume 17 Issue 6)

  • Toxicity Testing in Sediments – Bioassays as Link Between Chemistry and Complex Benthic Community Testing for Sediment Quality Assessment
    Sebastian Höss, Ecossa and Ute Feiler, Federal Institute of Hydrology (Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde)
    • Figure 1
      Fig. 1: Risks of contaminated sediments and effect-based solutions

      Sediments represent both a major sink and a potential source of persistent toxic substances in the aquatic environment. At the same time, sediments play a key role for the ecological status of aquatic ecosystems as they are a habitat of diverse communities and a compartment of important biochemical transformations. Therefore, sediment studies are very suitable for highlighting the extent, history and trend of water pollution (Fig. 1). Among others, toxicity criteria are used to decide on the acceptability of dredged material relocation within the waters or the need for other disposal options, which may be considerably higher in their costs. Therefore, thorough sediment characterization is essential. At present, weight-of-evidence (WoE) approaches, such as the sediment quality triad, are widely accepted to assess the ecological risk of sediment-bound contaminants. Besides chemical analysis and in situ benthic community assessment, toxicity testing with single species represents one line of evidence (LoE), which allows the assessment of cause–effect relationships. Whole-sediment exposure protocols, representing realistic scenarios simulating in situ exposure conditions, as well as aquatic bioassays for testing aqueous extracts or pore water obtained from the sediments are currently part of the international guidelines for the assessment of sediment and dredged material. Other LoEs, linking chemical and ecological status of benthic habitats, are effect-based sediment quality guidelines (SQG) that are derived from toxicity and biotic data as well as pollution sensitive biotic indices (Fig. 2).

      Details of the Session Talks

      Figure 2
      Fig. 2: LoEs that were used in the various studies to support “toxicity testing”

      In this session, six platform presentations reported on studies either using WoE approaches to assess the risk of contaminated sediments or employing single tools to be used as LoEs in risk assessment (Fig. 2). Three studies were performed with freshwater sediments and three in marine or estuarine habitats. The risk of metals, arsenic and organic contaminants were assessed in field and experimental approaches, using a variety of test organisms (e.g., bacteria, algae, nematodes, amphipods, rice) providing a broad overview of established and new, innovative ecotoxicological tools. Sediment risk and toxicity was assessed to (1) monitor the success of sediment remediation actions, (2) to make appropriate sediment management decisions (e.g., dredging), and (3) to adapt marine tools to estuarine conditions. Moreover, new tools were evaluated to support sediment toxicity testing as additional LoEs. Often SQGs were used instead of bulk sediment concentrations to estimate the risk of the measured sediment contamination. SQGs were then compared with observed effects in the field. Additional LoEs, such as biomarkers and microcosms, were explored to facilitate the interpretation of toxicity tests and the extrapolation to field conditions, respectively.

      Key messages of the six platform presentation were (see also extended abstracts):

      1. Expression of biomarker genes in rice plants turned out to be a sensitive endpoint for assessing the toxicity of bioavailable arsenic in freshwater sediments. Omics can help to identify stress before it becomes manifest on a macroscopic level (Presentation 86; Brinke et al.).
      2. Selection of appropriate toxicity tests for sediment risk assessment should be based on certain criteria, such as sensitivity, ecological relevance, practicability and costs, in order to enhance the reliability of sediment management decisions (Presentation 87; Lehtonen et al.).
      3. A marine sediment toxicity test battery showed to be an appropriate tool for assessing the risk of polluted brackish sediments, supporting evaluations based on chemical analysis and freshwater SQGs (Presentation 88; De Schamphelaere et al.).
      4. Chemical and ecotoxicological LoEs often disagreed with ecological LoEs in evaluating the risk of marine sediments, underlining the value of WoE approaches. Factors for the disagreement of the various LoEs should be identified (Presentation 89; Zorita et al.).
      5. A WoE approach for monitoring the success of sediment dredging as remediation action showed only slight improvements in sediment and water quality within three years. Long-term clean up goals are anticipated (10 years) (Presentation 90; Lazorchak et al.).
      6. Microcosm experiments are a suitable tool for assessing the toxicity of zinc to nematode communities, linking single species toxicity testing with field observations. Including indirect food-web effects seems crucial for assessing the risk of polluted sediments (Presentation 91; Hägerbäumer et al.).


      If choosing appropriate organisms and endpoints, sediment toxicity tests are suitable to assess the ecological risk of bioavailable pollutants in freshwater, estuarine and marine sediments and should therefore be included in WoE approaches for evaluating sediment quality. However, the reliability of a risk assessment can be considerably increased if combining toxicity testing with other ecotoxicological tools (e.g., SQGs, -omics, microcoms, biomarkers) that are able to link the chemical and ecological status of aquatic ecosystems.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Fate, Effects and Risk Assessment of Chemicals in Aquatic and Terrestrial Plants (I and II)
    Stefania Loutseti, DuPont, Carola Schriever, BASF, and Noël Diepens, Wageningen University
    • The first half of the morning session on Monday, 23 May, included many different presentations on plant metabolism, ecological models on aquatic plants and plant uptake. The first presentation was a talk on the use of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) high-resolution imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) in understanding spatial and temporal distribution of pesticides and their metabolites in tomato plants by Michael Kubicki, Institute of Environmental Research, Technical University of Dortmund.

      Stefan Trapp, Technical University of Denmark (DTU) Environment, shared 15 years of toxicity testing results using willow trees and the transpiration test method (no standard test is yet available). About 50 compounds were tested under various conditions. The researchers looked at heavy metals, ground water pollutants, pharmaceuticals and more. Metabolism and uptake can be analyzed simultaneously.

      The uptake of pharmaceuticals and novel metabolites from waste water into tomato plants grown under hydroponic conditions was discussed by Christina Riemenschneider, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). Riemenschneider concluded that concentrations of metabolites found in plants can be much higher than the parent compound due to plant metabolism. Further research is needed to evaluate any toxicological effects of these metabolites for the safe reuse of treated waste water in agriculture and potential consequences for modeling.

      Simon Heine, Bayer Crop Science, discussed the use of aquatic macrophyte modeling to increase realism as a higher tier of testing based on exposure patterns in toxicity test, similar to the Predicted Environmental Concentration in Surface Water (PECsw) and the toxicokinetic/toxicodynamic growth models of the Lemna and Myriophyllum species. A reliable calibration of uptake rate and dose response for the specific species is required prior to model validation.

      The last presenter during the first half of the morning session was Jette Reeg, University of Potsdam, with a talk on the use of models, such as the Xplicit-IBC individual-based spatiotemporal plant community model (IBC-grass) for grasslands using the plant functional types (PFT), which is able to address potential herbicide effects on relevant reproductive attributes on plant individuals. This model can provide valuable tools to clarify the need, or if necessary, the design of future experiments. Further research to analyze dependency of the effects on plant trait characteristics and the sensitivity of potential endpoints is needed.

      A poster spotlight with four posters at the end of the first half of the morning session focused on plant uptake of compounds from an environmental fate perspective. Exposure models used to simulate the leaching behavior of pesticides and their metabolites for regulatory purposes consider plants as a sink compartment. The plants take up water and dissolved substances from the soil, which are consequently not available for leaching anymore. Discussion is ongoing between stakeholders from government, business and academia on how to set the parameter value that describes uptake in the exposure models. In addition to using default values, there is an opportunity to use results from experimental data, but an official guidance on how to conduct an appropriate test is not yet available. Based on a stakeholder workshop (EUregPUF) held in 2013 in York, United Kingdom, a protocol was developed that is proposed to be used for investigating plant uptake and deriving parameters for exposure modeling. The spotlight posters brought together various aspects related to the proposed protocol. Stefan Trapp presented recommendations on experimental data to be recorded to make a meaningful statement regarding uptake. Yumiko Sandstrom tested the protocol and concluded on the applicability for different types of compounds. Marco Reitz presented a review of experiments performed according to the protocol with different plant types and Konstantin Kuppe commented on the protocol from a regulatory perspective.

      The second half of the morning session included many different presentations that covered a range of topic areas, including ecosystem services for non-target terrestrial plants, reviews on sensitivity of crop versus wild terrestrial plant species with comparison between reproductive and vegetative endpoints, use of trait-based end points to evaluate plant response to stresses, evaluations of both dose and time exposure and time-weighted average (TWA) reciprocity of effects on four Sulfonyluria (SUs) and effects from mixture toxicity to algae.

      Lorraine Maltby, University of Sheffield, reported the recommendations from the 1st and 2nd SETAC Non-target Terrestrial Plants Workshops, which were held in April 2014 and September 2015. Heino Christl, Tier 3 Solutions, followed up these workshop reports with literature reviews that addressed the hypothesis of sensitivity of crop versus wild terrestrial plant species and showed that reproductive endpoints are more sensitive than the standard vegetative ones currently used to inform pesticide risk assessment.

      Elisabeth Maria Gross talked about how plant functional traits reflect ecological strategies and determine how plants respond to environmental factors and stresses (i.e., tested the hypothesis exposing sediment-grown Myriophyllum spicatum to arsenic and a mixture of herbicides).

      The dependence of toxicity on not only the dose but also time for four SUs herbicides (i.e., Haber’s law) was discussed by Hugo Ochoa-Acuna, DuPont Crop Protection US. The data presented further validated the conclusion by the European Food Safety Authority in relation to the validity of a TWA for metsulfuron methyl and also agrees with the data collected for the better studied Lemna sps. These results show that the reciprocity assumption (i.e., varying dose and time exposure but keeping the TWA the same), and therefore allowance for the use of seven-day TWA concentration, should be considered as a standard refinement for the risk evaluation of SUs herbicides.

      The last two presentations dealt with effects of mixtures based on pulsed method experiments and the use of Passive Organic Compound Integrative Sampler (POCIS), which is used for sampling and monitoring of chemical mixtures to address and evaluate river quality. The experiments used field measurements (with data from Luxembourg) and a pesticide mixture to algae in agricultural streams based on combination of field and laboratory testing. For all mixtures but two calculated EC50 values were between three- and almost 10-fold higher than literature values for the dominant pesticide. This may suggest that chemical stressors other than pesticides could have contributed to the observed inhibitions.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Are We Going About Chemicals Risk Assessment for the Aquatic Environment the Wrong Way?
    Andrew Johnson, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), and John Sumpter, Brunel University
    • Audience
      The packed audience is seen taking part in the concluding questions.

      The aim of this session was to promote debate over the current direction of ecotoxicology and risk assessment for chemicals in the aquatic environment. The aim of ecotoxicology is to protect wildlife in the natural environment from manmade chemicals. The major focus of this discipline has been to identify which synthetic chemicals represent the greatest threat from the many thousands available. In 1980 Richard Schoettger stated, “Frankly, the U.S. scientific community does not have the time, research facilities, trained personnel, experimental animals, nor financial resources to provide the additional data needed for comfortable predictions of the possible environmental effects of a broad spectrum of chemical contaminants.” Despite such a warning, scientists have continued to attempt this approach. Many published studies now report changes in gene expression, protein profiles and metabolite profiles without linking them to any phenotypic change relevant to the well-being of the animal. Have we become caught up in the details and have lost sight of the wider picture? The task of testing thousands of chemicals against hundreds of aquatic species with thousands of end-points is daunting enough, but it has become even more challenging as we realize chemicals mixtures may harm wildlife.

      It is surprising that, while we rely more and more on laboratory ecotoxicity studies for our risk assessments, what is actually happening to wildlife in the river is receiving little attention. There are, however, some who have taken an interest and used the large monitoring datasets collected by regulators to link biodiversity with local pressures. What has received less attention from these approaches, however, are the trends in wildlife over time. Perhaps we need to ask if the aquatic wildlife populations that are most exposed to wastewater are the ones in decline. The session explored the impossibility of the current chemical-by-chemical approach to provide security to wildlife. We reviewed the current regulatory approaches for identifying priority or hazardous chemicals under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). We examined how a chemicals monitoring review would suggest that 50% of European water locations’ wildlife were suffering some sort of chronic ecotoxicity problem. How an eco-epidemiological approach identified locations where chemical pressure was the main cause of reduced invertebrate biodiversity in Ohio, USA. Finally, we examined the evidence for population-level effects in fish and invertebrates from domestic sewage effluent in the UK.

      Details of the Session Talks

      John Sumpter argued that with the numbers of chemicals, species of wildlife, end-points and mixture effects, and given our current rate of progress, it is completely impossible to identify which chemical is causing the greatest harm with any confidence. Thus, it is likely that much of the work we do is irrelevant for the better protection of wildlife from chemicals.

      Dean Leverett revealed the European WFD process to identify priority and hazardous chemicals. He admitted there was often a mismatch between the data regulators need and what is generated by academics. While the analysis of candidate compounds in this process was rigorous, the process by which a candidate compound emerges was somewhat more opaque. This seemed to be connected with lobbying by member states.

      Peter Von der Ohe reported on work that compared ecotox data for a range of organic contaminants with river measurements throughout Europe. This suggested one in seven sites might be suffering from acute toxic effects and 50% of sites from chronic effects (assumed to occur at 1,000-fold lower concentration than the acute effects). Much of this risk was driven by pesticides.

      Dick de Zwart explained the eco-epidemiological approach centred on invertebrate ecotox data for a wide range of chemical contaminants. This comprehensive approach also evaluates all likely environmental stressors including habitat and basic chemistry. With a very large dataset of invertebrate and chemistry monitoring data from Ohio, USA, it was found that in 3% of locations, chemical pressure alone was responsible for the loss of species.

      Andrew Johnson reviewed historic and more modern fish and invertebrate population data, which showed steady improvements in many locations despite our increasing use and discharge of chemicals. UK fish populations were unaffected or even positively linked (Rutilis rutilis) with sewage effluent exposure. The implication being exposure to routine domestic effluent was not harmful to fish populations, and by extension, we are overestimating risks from chemicals to wildlife. He ended with a plea to maintain routine monitoring of wildlife populations as the only sure way to check that we are not having any disastrous effects on wildlife.


      The session chairs began by asking the audience a series of questions:

      1. Do you think wildlife are affected in any way by chemicals in the environment? About 90% raised their hands to say yes!
      2. Do you think that some wildlife are being very seriously harmed by chemicals in the environment? Now only about 33% raised their hands to say yes.
      3. Do you think your work personally is helping to identify whether chemicals are really harming wildlife? Perhaps 33% raised their hands to say yes.
      4. Do you think we should maintain wildlife population monitoring to check on our environmental impacts? Around 100% said yes!

      A general discussion then took place. A number of delegates queried whether population monitoring might provide a warning that was too late and the need to maintain ecotox testing to assess all new chemicals. One delegate suggested the best approach was, therefore, a combination of preliminary testing of chemicals followed by retrospective examination of the response of wildlife in the field. The general atmosphere of the session was one of high expectation and enthusiasm, and the audience appreciated the attention given to their high-level questions. Given the interest and response, it would be worth revisiting this question at a future SETAC meeting – perhaps in two years.

      The room was completely full throughout the session with at least 250 delegates present. All seats were taken, and there were many people sitting and standing in the aisles and in the back.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Interactive Effects of Climate Change and Contaminants: Environmental Risks and Human Health Implications
    Elisabeth Maria Gross, LIEC – University of Lorraine, Antonio Manuel Barros Marques, Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA), and Arnaud Elger, EcoLab – University of Toulouse
    • Anthropogenic activities are responsible for effects at the global, regional and local scale; climate warming as a global event and the local release of numerous pollutants are two of multiple stressors acting at considerably different spatial scales. Thus, multistressor studies combining the effects of climate change and chemical pollution are of paramount importance to understanding possible additive, synergistic or antagonistic interactions from the organism to ecosystem levels, both in aquatic and terrestrial environments. Temperature increase, extreme meteorological events, additional greenhouse gas emissions and ocean acidification are only some climate change consequences that can modify contaminant availability and its modes of action in complex ways. The purpose of this session was to address effects of pollutants in the context of climate change at different biological levels and in various ecosystems.

      Five platform presentations were delivered in the session with three presentations addressing the influence of heat waves on the sensitivity of freshwater invertebrates to organic pesticides or metals, and two presentations evaluating the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products on marine invertebrates and fish subjected to thermal and pH ocean modifications. These were complemented by three poster spotlight presentations. All the presentations confirmed the importance of accounting for temperature and pH changes to understand the sensitivity of aquatic organisms to chemical contaminants, not only because chemicals and other stressors can interact on animal physiology, but also because actual exposure to contaminants can be modified by environmental changes that influence the fate of chemicals. The results presented within the session also highlighted the importance of developing methods that address the complexity of physiological responses of organisms, for instance via integrative multi-biomarkers approaches.

      The session was well attended with more than 50 delegates participating. The key points presented during the session included:

      1. Combined effects of chemical contaminants and other stressors are not easily predictable. They can act additively or interactively, in an antagonistic or synergistic way, depending on the chemical compounds, the associated stressors considered, the environmental context and the species studied.
      2. When addressing interactions between contaminants and other stressors, it is important to know how these other stressors alter organism sensitivity to contaminants and also how they modify the fate of the contaminant (and thus organism exposure) under natural conditions.
      3. To cope with the multiplicity of physiological markers used to address organism response to environmental pressures, multivariate statistical methods provide useful integrative tools.
      4. Invasive species from warmer climates might be less susceptible to combined stressors linked to temperature increase.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Multiple Stresses in Aquatic Ecosystems: Assessment of Stress Response and Its Consequences in Organisms
    Claudia Wiegand, University Rennes, Laure Giamberini, University of Lorraine, and Catherine Mouneyrac, Catholic University of the West and University of Nantes
    • Aquatic organisms face stress simultaneously or sequentially exposed to a variety of chemicals, in addition to confounding physical biological factors. Although multiple stress approaches have received growing interest in the last decade, knowledge is still lacking particularly concerning methodologies for studying complex systems and realistic environmental conditions. Understanding the influence of multiple stressors on species dynamics, and thus the potential for declines, is crucial for environmental risk assessment. This understanding is important to preserve these valuable systems through the use of integrated management strategies. This session showcased 11 presentations in two subgroups, with an additional four poster spotlights and 20 posters evaluating the ecological relevance of aquatic organisms in limnic, estuarine and marine systems facing multi-stress by exposure to a mixture of chemicals in the context of confounding factors. Presentations highlighted the use of laboratorial and field studies and discussed applicable management strategies.

      Details of the Session Talks

      The session started with a presentation of the EU project AQUACROSS, which aims to develop and test an assessment framework to advance ecosystem-based management of aquatic ecosystems, conserving biodiversity by delivering a consolidated and coherent outlook on EU policy for aquatic ecosystems. Another study presented characterization of Mediterranean River ecosystem stability and predicted the conditions under which it is shifting by modeling the spatial connection and the similarity of biological and other associated environmental parameters. The model provides relevant information regarding systems’ stability, drivers for transition between ecological states, as well as the interpretation of the longitudinal patterns of the rivers and their evolution according to shifting environmental conditions. Biomarkers have been validated with regards to their intrinsic variability but also their modification due to influencing physical factors covering full-year cycles or the full length of rivers. Genetic variation has been addressed, including the variation in the invertebrate community, which can be explained by the hydromorphological conditions in combination with the pollutants. Multidisciplinary approaches were highlighted as the best evaluations, as shown in the ECOTONES EU project. Two presentations focused on the adaptive responses in Mytilus to pollutants and thermal stress and evidenced high capacities depending on species and their hybrids. One of the presentations provided influence of multiple stressors on seagrass physiology and population dynamics, contributing to the explanation of its decline.


      Major progress has been made in assessing environmental health in terms of collecting the maximum possible data for a given complex pollution scenario. These include both hydromorphological and physical parameters. Advancements have been made to process them using models to comprehensively describe and understand the stress to aquatic organisms.

      As a counter strategy, multidisciplinary approaches integrating physico-chemical contaminant analysis, (eco)biochemical studies and modeling provide a useful strategy for assessing environmental health, tracing the major responsible stress factors and identify the most powerful predicting tools.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Fate and Effects of Contaminants of Emerging Concern: Microplastics in the Environment: Sources, Fate and Effects
    Catherine Mouneyrac, Catholic University of the West, Fabienne Lagarde, University of Le Mans, and Miguel Oliveira, University of Aveiro
    • The ubiquitous presence and persistence of microplastics (MPs) in aquatic environments are of major concern since they represent an increasing threat to marine organisms and ecosystems. There were a total of 61 platform and poster presentations in this session. The number of papers, which was the highest number of submissions received across all sessions, highlights the importance of this topic. Twenty-two platform presentations, three poster spotlights, six poster corners and 23 posters were presented. Four blocks of five to six platform presentations each included talks discussing MPs analysis and characterization techniques, MPs temporal and spatial distribution, chemical adsorption onto MPs, and ecotoxicological effects and trophic transfer of MPs.

      The main conclusions and key points for the combined session were:

      1. Plastic items disposed in the environment undergo fragmentation in a timescale (months to several years), displaying differences between polymer types. Plastic litter constitutes a large source of MPs (secondary MPs). However, important protocol improvements are still necessary to detect and identify these fragments in different and often complex matrices. For example, a technique of density separation for the recovery of MPs in sediments was validated and tested using both marine and freshwater sediments samples. Studies aiming to improve the digestion of biological tissues and the efficiency of MPs recovery, with attention to the potential degradation of plastics during digestion, were also presented. Finally, it was demonstrated that the identification of common polymers in mixture can be easily performed using thermal analytical methods, and new strategies of quantification by GC-GC-MS were also proposed.
      2. Data on the distribution of MPs in the environment (quantity and quality) are starting to become available. During the session, several studies provided information on MPs’ quantities in different areas of the globe, previously not described. A species-related focus can be given to data on the very small particles down to 10 µm. MPs were also quantified in freshwaters systems, focusing on water and sediments and in various compartments of the urban water cycle (gray water and wastewater). This information provides new knowledge on plastic litter as emerging contaminants.
      3. Several laboratory experiments on the adsorption of pollutants onto MPs to determine the properties leading to sorption were presented. Several compounds were evaluated such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and metals.
      4. Top Keywords
        Top keywords used in the presentations.
      5. The study of effects on biota including benthic and pelagic organisms (algae, invertebrate and vertebrate) were also included in this session. It became clear from these presentations that most of the studies focused on polyethylene MPs and polystyrene nanoplastics, with few evaluations on the effects of other polymers (e.g., polyvinyl chloride). Special focus was made to the density of MPs, the use of dispersing agents in the case of MPs, exposure time necessary to allow a complete adsorption or absorption of contaminants, and how to present the levels of MPs. The role of microalgae aggregates in the sedimentation of MPs and their effects on algae were also presented. Additionally, experiments with soil organisms highlighting the potential consequences of MPs in soils and surface waters when MPs are entrained in sludge from wastewater treatment plants.

      Overall, the session was very well attended with much of the audience staying for the entire session. The conclusions from this session are:

      1. New techniques continue being developed, but improvements and harmonization are still needed with further validation on different complex matrices.
      2. There is a need to conduct experimental exposures with MPs, which are representative of the "real" environment instead of standardized polymers.
      3. There is a need to further estimate the environmental risks of MPs.
      4. The difficulty of environmental monitoring and the understating of contributing factors (e.g., hydrodynamics, wind, rain, human activities) affecting the distribution of MPs needs additional evaluation.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Pushing Nanoparticle Studies To the Limit: Working at Environmentally Relevant Concentrations and in Complex Matrices
    Samuel R Thompson, University of York, Patrick Bauerlein, KWR Watercycle Research, Lars Michael Skjolding, Denmark Technical University, and Ralf Kaegi, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG)
    • Environmental nanoparticle studies, while becoming increasingly commonplace, are difficult to perform at low enough concentrations, and challenging to perform in sufficiently complex matrices, in order to represent real-world conditions. However, new tools, techniques and methodologies are being developed that allow studies to more closely approach true environmental relevance. Literature has recently been published demonstrating incremental improvements in detection limits using techniques such as single particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (spICP-MS), particularly showing improvements in differentiating particles against complex backgrounds. This session built upon that foundation by discussing not only some of the more recent developments in the field but also applications of wide-ranging techniques, from X-ray nanotomography and nanoparticle tracking, thermo-optical analysis and spICP-MS. These were reported to have been applied in a broad selection of contexts, including laboratory-based proof-of-concept experiments through fully integrated field studies.

      Seventeen platform presentations were delivered in three two-hour segments. The first segment addressed recent developments in instrumentation with most of the talks focusing upon developments of variants of single particle ICP-MS, including variously modified systems to include capabilities such as time-of-flight (TOF) and fast acquisition speed technique (FAST) apparatus. While the majority of engineered nanoparticle studies tend to have an emphasis in natural waters, one presenter discussed the development of spICP-MS for making measurements of particles in soil matrices. Another presentation was on the development of X-ray micro- and nano-tomography as a tool for probing nanoparticle–organism interactions. One presentation addressed the application of thermo-optical analysis for differentiating carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from other sources of carbon, particularly when used as a structural material. The final talk in the first segment detailed the development of nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) to allow it to function not only at environmentally relevant concentrations but also to determine nanoparticle shape at the same time as size.

      The second segment took a closer look at the applications of these new technologies in the laboratory and in the field. Two presenters spoke about the successful detection and measurement of engineered nanoparticles in natural river water, one site in the Netherlands and another site in France. A further update was provided on the environmentally relevant bioaccumulation of nanosilver in fish using the experimental lakes system in Ontario, Canada. Researchers found significant bioaccumulation of silver even at higher trophic levels. Attention was given to the leaching of nanoparticles into the environment, both from more conventional sources like sewage treatment plants (STPs) and landfill sites, but also from recently identified sources such as nanoparticle impregnated textiles and the effects of various detergents have upon the leaching process of these materials. The majority of studies in this segment focused on inorganic nanoparticles.

      The final segment of platform presentations examined the behavior and measurement of nanoparticles in artificial media. These presentations included effects-based studies interested in the metabolomics of fullerene interactions with mussels, assessments of nanoparticle stability over time in marine waters and freshwaters, and an in-depth study of the hetero- and homo-aggregation of engineered nanoparticles and naturally occurring organic matter, revealing that natural aggregation processes are almost entirely driven by hetero-aggregation. The session ended with a final talk detailing the assessment of detection limits of isolopically labeled quantum dots (QDs) in a range of complex media and demonstration of detection to the low nanograms per litre, paving the way for future studies involving QDs.

      The session had good attendance, with an estimated audience of more than 200 at several of the presentations. Some of the most important points discussed include:

      1. Several of the more established nanoparticle analysis systems are now sufficiently advanced that they can be used to monitor engineered nanoparticles in situ in natural water and soil systems at environmentally relevant concentrations.
      2. There are still many nanoparticle analysis techniques under development. This should yield the widespread ability in coming years to make measurements of nanoparticles of types and in matrices which are currently not viable.
      3. Further work is necessary to improve the detection and measurement of organic nanoparticles in environmentally relevant samples. This should focus on the specific properties that differentiate the engineered particles from the natural analogues.
      4. Despite the substantial progress that has been made in the analytical development, the next step requires harmonization, standardization and validation of the experimental methods currently in use.
      5. The speed of analysis is in need of further refinement in order to allow for more real-time monitoring.

      Author’s contact information:

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