Gan Zhang, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Jing You, SETAC Asia-Pacific, Jinan University

The SETAC Asia-Pacific Focused Topic Meeting on Environment Pollution and Health in Coastal Zones along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) was held from 23–26 April 2019 in Guangzhou, China. The meeting was jointly organized by SETAC Asia-Pacific and the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (GIG), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry (SKLOG)

Zhang Gan

Professor Zhang Gan makes his opening remarks during the meeting.

The meeting attracted more than 50 participants from 15 countries, including six developed countries (i.e., Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States) and eight developing countries (i.e., Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Thailand). Domestic Chinese participants were from five CAS institutes and eight universities.

The theme of the meeting was “Environment Pollution and Health in MSR.” By bringing together scientists from home and abroad, and from both developed and developing countries, the event aimed to identify problems in environment and health commonly faced by developing countries along the MSR, specify defects of existing international scientific plans and practices, clarify research needs and co-design international scientific programs.

Convened by Zhang Gan, GIG Deputy Director, the meeting also featured Xu Yigang, CAS Member and GIG Director, Charles Menzie, SETAC Global Executive Director, and Jing You, President of SETAC Asia-Pacific, at the opening ceremony.

The meeting was conducted by Akanimo Odon, Africa Strategy Advisor at Lancaster University, and facilitator of scientific workshops. The meeting was lively and well-paced. Eight lectures, each eight minutes long, were included to set the scene before group discussions. Wang Xiaoping, Research Professor from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau, CAS, briefed the audience on the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) Pan-Third-Pole Program. She was then followed by Lidia Morawska’s address on air pollution as a global epidemic. Roland Weber spoke about national implementation of the Stockholm Convention and potential BRI contribution. Joan Grimalt covered environmental chemical contamination and health. Tom Harner talked about global passive atmospheric sampling of air toxics (GAPS). Rainer Lohmann addressed aquatic global aquatic passive sampling (AQUA-GAPS). Kevin Jones covered pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs). Mahamad Pauzi Zakara spoke to coastal micro-plastics pollution and Zhu Yongguan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and antibiotic resistance gene (ARG) at ecosystem scale.

Meeting attendees of the SETAC Asia-Pacific Focused Topic MeetingAfter these talks, the participants were divided into six groups, each focusing on a research topic, including chemical and health, air quality and health, impacts of microplastics on biosystems, global passive sampling, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and AMR and environmental ARG. The group discussions and presentations were conducted in four sections: problem formulation, research needs, technical approaches and international collaboration. After two days of intensive discussion, the groups proposed six multilateral scientific projects geared to the needs of developing countries along the MSR. These include, respectively, “Agricultural waste burning along 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” “Chemical inventories: Identification of health hazards,” “Platform to investigate a cocktail of pollutants in water,” “BRI monitoring programme,” “Impact of microplastics on biosystems,” and “Baseline and risk of AMR in the MSR.”

On 26 April, the closing day of the conference, the attendees visited the State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry and the State Key Laboratory of Isotope Geochemistry at GIG. During the visit, Lidia Morawska, Roland Weber, Joan Grimalt, Tom Harner and Rainer Lohmann gave academic lectures, respectively.

Back in 2017, GIG launched the International Partnership Program “Southern Contaminants Programme,” and in 2018, they organized the MSR training course “Monitoring and Risk Assessment of Persistent Toxic Substances in Coastal Environments,” both efforts were supported by CAS. By collaborating with SETAC through the SETAC Asia-Pacific Focused Topic Meeting on Environment Pollution and Health, clearer goals and visions have been formed for international projects associated with environment pollution and health in coastal environment along the MSR.

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