SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  15 September2011
Volume 12 Issue 9

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New Developments from SETAC Milan in Aquatic Macrophyte Testing, Higher Tier Risk Assessment and Ecotoxicology

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  • Risk Assessment of Chemicals within REACH Integrating Alternative Methods and Nontesting Strategies
    • Ester Papa (University of Insubria, Italy) and Michael Neumann (Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Germany)

      The aim of this session was to stimulate the exchange between ecotoxicologists and substance property experts with QSAR model developers and algorithm developers and with non-QSAR specialists requiring access to models and data. We provided a forum to exchange experiences gained within REACH.

      Environmental protection needs high accuracy in estimating the risks associated with chemicals. Traditionally this is done by standard laboratory test systems and higher tier tests. REACH aims to achieve a proper balance between societal, economic and environmental objectives, and attempts to efficiently use the scarce and scattered information available on the majority of chemical substances. This session contributed to the development, validation and application of Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) and Quantitative Structure Property Relationship (QSPR) models focused on the use and reliability of Read-Across, Intelligent-Testing-Strategies or Weight-of-Evidence approaches. Overall this session reflected experiences in chemical regulation and proposed new and emerging approaches for decision-making in the future.

      Overall, the topics addressed in this session reflected experiences and proposed new and emerging approaches for risk assessment and ranged from ecotoxicology to fate and behavior, as well as to hazardous properties. The platform presenters origin was mainly the academic branch of SETAC, however all six platform presentations were focused on the practical approach and the future application of their results in the REACH-system. This lead into actual improvements or updates in the field of TTC — threshold of toxicological concern, characterization of uncertainty, transformation products assessment, acceptance of integrated testing strategies, and the OECD QSAR Toolbox. The platform presentation was well attended by 100 to 120 people. At the same time, the 24 posters from this session presented a wide range of topics and attracted high interests throughout the day.

      For more information, see CADASTER project, OSIRIS project, and the OECD QSAR Toolbox.

      Authors’ contact information:;
  • Monitoring and Modeling Stressed Ecosystems to Support Ecosystem-based Management
    • Francesco Pomati (EAWAG) and Frederik De Laender (Ghent University)

      Ecosystems provide essential services to humans and the global environment. Our ultimate capacity to preserve and manage ecosystems integrity strongly depends on our underlying understanding of how human impacts affect the functioning of ecosystems as a whole, and the processes that maintain their structure (including evolution). Monitoring sets the basis for understanding and modelling the basis for predicting and managing ecosystems under scenarios of anthropogenic disturbance. To reach the goal of maintaining ecosystems in a healthy, productive and resilient condition, we need to consider the cumulative impact of different stressors on structural and functional properties of populations, communities and ecosystem, and on the services that they provide.

      In this session, we solicited contributions on experimental, monitoring and modeling studies that quantify responses to multiple stress events to translate lower-level responses to impacts on higher levels of ecological complexity. Presentations covered mechanistic (i.e., species interactions), temporal (early warning signal detection to ecosystem stability and recovery upon stressor removal) and functional (system functions and services) aspects of ecosystem responses. Additionally, examples of how monitoring and modelling techniques can assist in evaluating remediation measures and management actions were welcomed. Lastly, presentations that demonstrated the advantages of integrating monitoring and modelling efforts for data gathering and model development were invited.

      This diverse session addressed a variety of topics from bacteria to diatom communities to red fox population dynamics. All the talks used higher level endpoints to assess the status of ecosystems. With this, we achieved the aims we set for this session, i.e., moving away from specific chemicals or species towards a better understanding of the patterns that govern environmental impacts of pollutants. In addition, two presentation introduced the importance of traits in risk assessment, which will be fundamental in the future to scale effects from lower to higher levels of biological organisation. One talk summarised the challenge of scaling pollution effects from a local to a global scale. Considering that the objective was of studying and understanding effects at ecosystem levels, the session lacked an evolutionary perspective, which is also lacking in most of the environmental toxicology literature, and will also represent a major future challenge in understanding and predicting the behaviour of stressed ecosystems.

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  • Aquatic and Terrestrial Mesocosm and Field Studies: Messages from Complex Systems to Academia, Regulators, and Industry
    • Mikhail Beketov (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany)

      Community- and ecosystem-level ecotoxicological studies performed with artificial ecosystems (mesocosms) or in real-world systems (field) represent the ultimate complexity in ecotoxicology. Such studies frequently show that biotic and abiotic environmental factors, as well as intrinsic system properties can significantly modulate the strength of the toxicants’ effects and the dynamics of post-contamination recovery. Therefore, results of such studies, in comparison with laboratory-based tests, are more ecologically realistic, but at the same time, are more difficult to interpret and consider for regulation. Recently, considerable efforts were spent to provide guidance for mesocosm studies, and to standardise the assessment endpoints, design, and quality of the experiments and test systems. Field studies, including both biological and chemical monitoring and assessment, are also characterised by significant developments, such as novel sampling methods, stressor-specific bioindicators, and supportive software. However, the practical questions that are actively discussed by the scientific community are still diverse and reasonable and include how to design, conduct, analyse, and interpret mesocosm and field studies for the purposes of risk assessment and regulation? This session was aimed to gather representatives from academia, regulators, and industry (as also chaired by the three-sector team), and to endeavour to answer the difficult questions stated above.

      Several key messages came out of the session presentations. Natural stressors may modify effects of toxicants and should be considered in the assessment. Next to peak concentrations time-weighted average concentrations are relevant in linking exposure to the corresponding effects. The role of nematodes in ecological risk assessment needs to be further understood, as these organisms play a key role in soil and sediment systems. A meta-analysis using a significant number of non-target arthropods field studies indicate that result of studies performed in different places over central Europe provide comparable results. However, studies conducted in Mediterranean regions (Spain) showed less impact at comparable treatment levels.

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  • Environmental Risk Assessment and Management of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) and Biocides
    • Domenica Auteri (European Food Safety Authority, Italy)

      For almost 20 years, pesticides in Europe have been authorised according to the Council Directive 91/414/EEC stating that a pesticide can be listed in Annex I (“positive list”) if at least one representative use does not pose “unacceptable” risks to humans and the environment. Following the entry into force of that Directive in 1993, scientific progress has been made to perform the environmental risk assessment, especially at higher tier level. The new Pesticide Regulation (EC) N° 1107/2009, applicable as of 14 June 2011, will confront risk assessors, risk managers and industry with new challenges like comparative risk assessment and substitution, zonal mutual recognition, impact on biodiversity, and hazard based cut-off criteria. The sustainable use directive (DIRECTIVE 2009/128/EC of 21 October 2009) establishes a framework to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides by reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection of the Joint Research Centre (JRC-IHCP) are currently developing and updating guidance documents in the area of ecological risk assessment (ERA) for plant protection products and biocides, respectively. There are also activities in the context of legislative frameworks, at the Member State level or at a research level. The aim of this session was to create a platform:
      1. for discussing new requirements regarding the new Pesticide Regulation
      2. for sharing information between different legislative frameworks, as a contribution of a more harmonised approach for ERA.
      3. for exchanging knowledge and latest developments on guidance for ERA among the scientific and legislative community
      4. for identifying and communicating current needs for further development of GDs
      5. for discussing the feasibility and the effectiveness of risk mitigation measures identified in the risk assessment process and
      6. the transfer of risk assessment and risk management from EU level to zonal and national levels, and from national levels to a field level.
      The use of pesticides is necessary for a high agricultural production. However, the adverse effects they may cause to the environment must be prevented. The risk assessment and risk management in the pre-marketing and post-marketing phase are crucial to guarantee a sustainable use of pesticides. Any improvements of these processes will result in a high level of protection for non-target ecosystems. In this session issues related to the new requirements and new approaches for risk assessment were presented and discussed, including a risk assessment approach for mixtures of biocide products. This issue is considered relevant also for other chemical especially Plant Protection Products (PPP). New regulations (EC) N° 1107/2009 regarding evaluation of pesticide persistence in the environment relative to the cut-off criteria were discussed. Also the need for new approaches to harmonise the authorization of PPP at a “zonal level” was pointed out. Some presentations indicated that the current risk assessment schemes (i.e., birds and mammals and soil non-target organisms) might need to be further developed, to improve the level of protection. An ad hoc data requirement might need to be developed for the substances on the so called “4 list” or “green tracks” (e.g., pheromones). It was pointed out that these substances might be considered at “low risk” and therefore they may contribute to the protection of crops in a sustainable use context.

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  • Linking Chemical Residues with Biological Responses in Wildlife
    • Judit Smits (University of Calgary), Vince Palace (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada) and Kim Fernie (Environment Canada)

      The recognition of a growing list of persistent contaminants in the environment from multiple sources, has stimulated renewed efforts to identify not only systemic effects of exposure in wildlife and domestic animals, but also the development of validated early indicators of compromised biological function in test animals. Proteomics and genomics have accelerated the development of innovative methods for diagnosing toxicity at tissue or cellular levels, which are providing insight into toxic effects that have remained undetectable using standard biomarker techniques. These approaches are exposing a previously unrecognized range of toxic responses to historically important environmental toxicants. This session included presentations from speakers who have used molecular, biochemical and physiological tests to describe and measure the true impacts of exposure to persistent organic compounds (e.g., PCBs, PCDFs, brominated flame retardants, pesticides and hormone mimics) in wildlife. Specifically, alterations in gene expression, protein synthesis, hormone regulation, as well as immunological, physiological, reproductive and behavioural endpoints that can be directly related to internal dose or chemical residues in tissues were discussed. The session featured work from several vertebrate models including birds, mammals, amphibians and fish, as well as from both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. The focus was the connections/relationships between measurable residues or doses of POPs and biological responses that are known to be related to population stability of the wild species investigated.

      Considering the theme of this year’s SETAC Europe meeting, the session addressed how to bring together, logically, the science that drives the policy decisions, and the regulations that are meant to provide meaningful, protective, environmentally sound regulation. This session strongly supported the mission of SETAC in presenting research that addresses sustainable environmental quality by focusing, not only on residues in animal tissues or water, but on what the real biological costs might be. Many of our presentations had in their core, the consideration of population level impacts that must be extrapolated from studies based on biomarker, behavioural, pathological or residue information.

      The presentations covered most “corners” of the globe, ranging from Antarctica to northern Scandinavia and Canada. We also shared work on vertebrates ranging from fish and marine mammals, to domestic ruminants and avian wildlife. Important questions that arose included the constant challenge of how to extrapolate information studied in more common species, to other, more rare species. The challenge comes because the more rare species are doubtlessly more sensitive to anthropogenic disturbances than the common ones, but researchers must take care to limit their own “investigator impact”. One of the compelling thoughts left hovering after the session is how to interpret increases in inducible enzymes, when we discover through our research, that they are not due to toxicity from anthropogenic compounds, which has been the common assumption by many toxicologists. As well, there is a general caution for young researchers to be careful not to over-interpret their findings, but to continue to develop a holistic understanding of the animal systems they are studying, and how it relates to ecosystem integrity.

      Author contact information:
  • Characterisation and Remediation of Contaminated Soils and Sediments
    • Ruth Pereira (University of Aveiro, Portugal)

      This session focused on the development and assessment of new and eco-friendly methodologies aimed in restoring contaminated soils and sediments, mitigating their risks, and recovering some ecosystem services.

      Phytoremediation, considering plants in isolation or exploring the relationships between plants and rhizosphere, rhizoplane or endophytic bacteria was one of the key topics of this session. This methodology is gaining great interest as it is less expensive and more appropriate for developing countries; it is more ecologically friendly and could be more efficient in restoring landscape and ecosystem services. The efficiency of these processes is still unknown and we are still afraid that they will be less efficient or slower acting than the engineering-based methods. These difficulties are mainly related with our poor ability in predicting the variability associated with the soil-plant environment. Laboratory assays and a new Hydrus—1D software could be helpful tools in predicting the metals phytoextraction efficiency of plants, as well as their tolerance to contaminated soils. Models from these software included available data about general soil physical and chemical properties, meteorological conditions, the irrigation scheme applied and concentrations of metals in plants. Data from extraction of metals by Vetiver grass growing in pots under greenhouse experiments have proved to be appropriate to calibrate the model. The model is being calibrated for other plant species as well as for soils contaminated with organic compounds. Fast growth rate, great biomass yield and tolerance to contaminants and high bioaccumulation capacity are the main characteristics of plants to be selected for phytoremediation purposes. Until now phytoremediation studies have been very limited to laboratory assays; few reports exist about applications in the field. But in this session, researchers from Italy described the behavior of Pteridis vittata when exposed to arsenic-contaminated soils in the field, in terms of their arsenic phytoextraction efficiency and in terms of their ability to grown in contaminated soils. Plant age (1 or 2 years), mycorrhization and soils manure have proved to be factors with a positive effect in the physiological conditions of plants exposed to the contaminated soil in the field, as well as in arsenic phytoextraction efficiency. The importance of field trials has been reinforced due to the great influence of soil properties and of climatic conditions in the success of phytoremediation strategies. Phytoremediation could be the best approach for mitigating the risks in areas contaminated by mining waste in developing countries. In fact, this was the objective of a project funded by NATO, which combined the expertise of ecotoxicologists, chemists, plant physiologists and microbiologists to develop methods for extracting endophytic bacteria carrying metal resistant genes, transferring them to the new plantlets that will be used to phytoremediate contaminated areas.

      Contaminated sediment assessment and remediated provided a second key focus of this session. New metrics related to contaminated sediment assessment under the scope of the Water Framework Directive were presented, using macroinvertebrate communities. These new metrics, which combine habitat characteristics, sediment contamination and macroinvertebrate community structure using multivariate statistical analysis, have proved to be more efficient than those already available. However, when the aim is to remediate contaminated sediments through sediment amendments, there are also concerns related to the impact of amendment substances/materials themselves. The optimum concentrations of materials such as activated carbon should be carefully evaluated before their application. While new methods are being developed, dredging still is the most commonly applied method to remediate contaminated sediments. However, we need to improve our ability to predict and characterize the concentrations and the chemical status of contaminants that persist in sediments after dredging operations. EPA’s Office of Research has conducted a multidisciplinary study aimed at characterizing contaminants that persist in sediments as well the exposure of the ecosystem to them, during and after dredging operations in the Ashtabula River (Ohio, USA). Focusing on PAHs, PCBs and benzo[a]pyrene, dredging has proved to be very efficient in reducing concentrations in sediments as well as their bioaccumulation by invertebrates and fish species two years after the operation.

      Author contact information:
  • Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles
    • Britta B.A. Grillitsch (University of Veterinarian Medicine of Vienna, Austria) and Manuel E. Ortiz-Santaliestra (Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, Ciudad Real, Spain)

      The session’s overall theme and objectives were linking causes and effects through integrated and novel approaches in the ecotoxicology of amphibians and reptiles. Background and significance are the increasing evidence and concern about amphibian and reptile population declines, with chemical environmental contaminants being among the major causes. However, the role contaminants play either exclusively or in combination among other environmental factors has rarely been assessed. The population decline phenomenon triggered intense research activities, and the available information on the ecotoxicology of these two vertebrate classes has considerably increased, with the numbers of existing pertinent publications roughly doubling for both taxa only during the last decade. The landmark books (Sparling et al. 2000; 2010) and the review chapters therein compiled, analysed, and critically evaluated the current state of knowledge in the field, and concluded that there still is an urgent need for progress in designed field and laboratory studies addressing questions relevant to both conservation and regulatory concerns. Future scientific challenges include, conceptual biosurvey, bioassay, and biomarker development and validation, as well as (not mutually exclusively) micro-pollution, multi-stressor, and effects of priority concern targeted research eventually aiming at predicting spatial and temporal exposure and effect cascades through ecosystem structural, functional and trophic integration.

      The common ground of the session’s presentations was their dedication to assessing the impact of pesticides or agricultural land use on the viability of amphibians and reptiles – those two vertebrate classes being subject to particular population declines. Any presentation addressed another key scientific question of currently increasing importance—that of the effects of agricultural pesticides. Exposure scenarios included
      1. the most widely used macro- and micropollutants (the organophosphorous insecticide chlorpyrifos, the herbicides atrazine and glyphosate, the insecticide and acaricide fipronil, and PAH benzo[a]pyrene a priority soil contaminant from combustion processes),
      2. multi-stressor exposure in particularly biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems like those in arid (key agricultural and viniculture of Canada) or tropical areas (agricultural for biofuel expansion, soybean and sugar cane, in Brazil), and
      3. in corn fields treated with pesticides compared with organic agricultural fields (in Portugal).
      All study designs were complex, addressing multi-endpoint approaches spanning several levels of ecosystem integration for toxicokinetics, from metabolization to bioaccumulation, for toxicodynamics, from molecular (proteomics), biochemical (neurotoxicity), histological (endocrine, thyroid, testis), and behavioral to community level.

      Finally, a review compared the atrazine and glyphosate toxicity issues for amphibians to address the need to take a more ecosystem-wide approach to evaluating the overall impacts of herbicides in the environment.

      An example for conservation measures in an arid area was given with creating new habitats for amphibians in order to preserve the many species at risk that depend on water in a desert region.

      Significant conclusions and recommendations of the session's presentations covered many different topics including ecotoxicity and tools for ecotoxicological studies, toxicokinetics, risk assessment and environmental management and policy:
      1. Dietary exposure of lizards to the organophosphorus chlorpyrifos resulted in altered capacity of prey catching, indicating possible neurotoxicosis
      2. One or a combination of pesticides affected normal spermatogenetic activity during the non-reproductive season and affected thyroid activity of lizards, indicating that these compounds may be acting as endocrine disruptors
      3. Impacts of atrazine on amphibians were reviewed, including effects on hatching or suppression of the immune system that potentially leads to disease or increased parasite infection
      4. Toxicokinetics
      5. Two micropollutants [benzo(a)pyrene and fipronil] showed very different metabolization and bioaccumulation profiles and tissue distribution in green frogs; the former accumulated almost exclusively in gall bladder, intestine and kidney whereas the latter occurred at significant concentrations in a number of organs
      6. The enzymes cytochrome P450 or GST played a major role in detoxification of these two pollutants
      7. Tools for Ecotoxicological Studies
      8. Cholinesterase activity is a useful biomarker for organosphosphorus exposure also in lacertids
      9. A proteomic approach contributed to explain the potential mechanisms of toxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides. In particular, Roundup® seemed to affect energetic metabolism, proteolysis and mitochondrial function in liver, and cellular signaling, neuronal differentiation and ion transport in the brain of common frogs
      10. Risk Assessment
      11. In soybean and sugarcane crop dominated landscapes, a reduction in amphibian species richness was observed from less to more impacted ecosystems
      12. Temporal coincidence of larval die offs and severe alterations in community structure with periods of agrochemical application suggested a major role of contamination on community composition, structure and diversity
      13. Management and Environmental Policy
      14. Atrazine use was reviewed in the US because of the potential of the herbicide to act as an estrogenic disruptor in amphibians
      15. Measures that contribute to the preservation of amphibian populations in hostile environments were also recommended for habitats whose suitability was reduced because of the impact of environmental pollution
      Sparling, D.W., Linder, G., and Bishop, C. 2000. Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles. SETAC Press. Pensacola, FL.
      Sparling, D.W., Linder, G., Bishop, C., and Krest, S. 2010. Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Second Edition. SETAC/Taylor & Francis. Boca Raton, FL.

      Author contact information:

      This session was dedicated to the aims of the SETAC “Ecotoxicology of Amphibians and Reptiles Advisory Group” promoting structured communication at conferences or workshops on the subject of ecotoxicology of amphibans and reptiles.
  • Increasing Robustness of LCA Methodology
    • Alessandra Zamagni (ENEA, Italy) and Tomas Rydberg (Ivl Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Sweden)

      How to increase robustness and overcome the present barriers in order to increase LCA applications and to better link them with environmental and sustainability policies were the topics at the core of the session. The starting point was the consideration that there is apparently a contradiction in requirements about how to further develop LCA. In fact, the present situation is characterized by an increasing global demand for Life Cycle Thinking/LCA in support of the decision-making process at policy level. In this context LCA is mainly required to deliver robust and easily understandable results, guaranteeing a sound and scientific basis at the same time. At the research level, this period has been defined as the “decade of elaboration” to indicate the development of many different approaches, ranging from dynamic LCA to spatially-differentiated LCA and environmentally extended input-output based LCA, just to mention a few. Thus, a question arises: can complexity and sophistication coexist with simplicity and usability? This was addressed in the session on Increasing Robustness in LCA Methodology.

      The overall impression of the session was, that in order to further the understanding about robustness, it seems necessary to elaborate several methodological approaches, which in fact, looks to complicate the practice of LCA if they were indeed implemented. On the other hand, exploring the significance of the increased complexity will give us a good basis to understand where simplifications are possible and still valid. The presentations thus dealt with sector guidelines as an approach to increase credibility and comparability, i.e. robustness, of LCA studies. The increasing complexity was illustrated by approaches to dynamical/time-resolved analysis to overcome some shortcomings in current modeling. The other main topic was spatial differentiation, which we can state is an issue relevant in many situations, both in inventory analysis and in impact assessment. Approaches were presented for time resolution of climate gas emissions, spatial assessment of water use, and an integrated space- and time-resolved model for linking processes in the inventory analysis. Finally, an approach on how to deal with complexity by a flexible design of a database was presented.

      Additional information:
      Koehler A. 2008. Water Use in LCA: Managing the Planet's Freshwater Resources. JLCA 13 (6): 451-455.

      Levasseur A, Lesage P, Margni M, Deschênes L, Samson R. 2010. Considering Time in LCA: Dynamic LCA and its Application to Global Warming Impact Assessments. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44:3169-3174.

      Mutel CL, Hellweg S. 2009. Regionalized Life Cycle Assessment: Computational Methodology and Application to Inventory Databases. Environ. Sci. Technol. 43:5797-5803.

      Potting J, Hauschild MZ, 2006, Spatial Differentiation in Life Cycle Impact Assessment: A Decade of Method Development to Increase the Environmental Realism of LCIA. Int. J. LCA. 11:11-13

      Strazza C, Del Borghi A, Blengini GA, Gallo M. 2010. Definition of the methodology for a sector EPD (Environmental Product Declaration): case study of the average Italian cement. Int. J. LCA. 15:540-548

      Weidema BP. (2003). Flexibility for application. Market modelling in LCI databases. Presentation to the International Workshop on LCI-Quality, Karlsruhe, 2003.10.20-21.

      Authors’ contact information:;
  • Life Cycle Management (LCM) Approaches for Different Industrial Sectors
    • Gert Van Hoof (Procter & Gamble Eurocor, Belgium)

      It is a common belief that LCA is an important tool in managing sustainability. The applicability of this tool is an important element to move policy makers and decision makers in industry towards a more sustainable society. In this session, we called out for contributions on life cycle analysis (LCA) application in different industrial sectors or for policy development. In the context of a growing interest for sustainable production and consumption, there is an increased variety of LCA applications. On the one hand, this calls for standardization such as observed in Product Category Rules/Environmental Product Declaration (PCRs/EPD) systems, but on the other hand, new application areas in industries and policies need flexibility to answer the research needs. With this session we targeted these two fields of applications and learned from their experiences as to how applicability of LCA can be further improved. A summary of presentations follows:

      LCM capability framework—A new approach for sustainable value chains
      Diverse definitions and application of sustainable development in organizations is now organized in a framework evaluating the maturity of the organization. Feedback on the framework is available leading to refinements and simple and practical tools developed to self-assess maturity scale. Life cycle management (LCM) is one of the critical tools within this framework that is aiming to drive the value chain to become more sustainable.

      Rethinking water policy in water-scarce countries—lessons learned from a lifecycle-water footprint perspective
      In this presentation, application of LCA in the water area was shown with the objective to increase refinement and the testing of water footprint methods. By reaching out to water-intense industries and water-scarce regions, it was aimed to manage water resources in a more sustainable way around the globe. Some practical examples were discussed.

      LCA as a decision support tool in the waste management sector—a critical review
      The waste management sector is highly complex since it is linked to all industrial sectors. LCA has a long history as an environmental decision-support tool in this sector. A literature review study on LCM approaches used a method to classify the different studies into specific groups according to the methodology followed. The outcome of the research was further guidance on methodology, and adds that for long term sustainability assessment socio-economic aspects need to be included.

      LCA applied to events—the case study of Gymnaestrada
      The success of the LCM approach is now also extending into newer application fields such as the organization of an event. It was shown that this helps guide environmental improvement choices for the organizers and provides a means for communicating their efforts in this area. An on-line tool was developed for this application.

      LCA software in the analysis of municipal waste treatment technologies
      It was shown that software tools provide consistent ranking when evaluating different waste treatments (incineration, landfill), but quantified results are highly dependent on the type of software/databases used.

      Product carbon footprint commitment in the automotive industry
      This presentation showed the evolution of LCA application in the environmental management of a car producer. It illustrated the importance of changes in technology to evolve towards more sustainable car mobility. The presentation showed the evolution of LCA by moving its use from a purely internal decision-making tool to an external communicating tool (labeling).

      Seven barriers to reliable LCA for biofuels
      Although we all know ISO 14040, we were reminded about the strengths the LCA process offers in its iterative/adaptive character helping to integrate information and prioritize information collection processes. If too much focus is on the results only, the benefit may become hidden in the methodological issues and uncertainties inherent to LCA.

      Design for environment conceptual implementation plan for tanneries, diary, meat processing and electroplating sectors in Argentina
      LCA application in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is a real challenge and even more so in developing countries. The presenter showed that inclusion of environmental improvements as the result of LCA can help continued competitiveness for SMEs. The design for the environment (DfE) approach allowed the involved companies to meet the objectives of the Industrial Reconversion program for Argentina.

      LCA and environmental product declaration of an immunological product (vaccine) for boar taint control in male pigs
      The next presenter illustrated the application of LCA in the field of meat production. The study started off by evaluating the carbon footprint of two alternative methods for better quality of pork meat. Some social aspects in terms of animal welfare were considered as well. In the next phase, an EPD was developed that can be used in the communication of the environmental benefits.

      Evaluation of environmental impacts of Epson Italy company through LCA methodology
      We also learned how LCA applied to corporate activities such as travel and energy management provides unique insight at the corporate level into things such as travel, which are traditionally more difficult to quantify in process LCAs. The presentation included the feedback of employees to increase their involvement in corporate environmental policy.

      Food miles in retailers decision-making process
      Finally, a case study in the retail sector showed how decisions on vegetables and fruit sourcing using LCA can optimize sustainable consumption. Examples such as this demonstrated how sustainable consumption and production may become a reality if implemented across the value chain.

      Author contact information:
  • LCA Networks–A Special Session
    • Paolo Masoni (ENEA, Italy)

      A special session, comparing the experiences of LCA Networks, was sponsored by the Italian LCA Network at the SETAC Europe meeting in Milan. LCA applications have been increasing in number in the last years, probably due to two main factors: firstly the increasing importance of life cycle thinking in the regulatory process at national and European level (life cycle approach has been implemented in the most recent communications and directives on the environment and it is considered a qualifying element—sometimes even mandatory—in any sustainability evaluation); secondly, the increasing awareness among business and consumers of the need for adopting more sustainable behaviours. There have been important improvements and developments, which contribute to make LCA more robust, increasing its consistency and compatibility with policy and industry contexts. This process was supported also by several important institutions within Europe. The European Platform on LCA, created in 2005, became a key organization to promote efforts mainly related to the research and development of life-cycle based policy guidelines. SETAC Europe and the SETAC LCA Steering Committee have also supported the permanent evolution of the life cycle community through the organization of spaces for exchange. Besides these international initiatives, several other national/regional and sectoral networks have been created, grouping an increasing number of LCA practitioners. Indeed, there is an apparent will and need of communication and of synergy with other experts involved in life cycle research, education or applications. Universities, research councils and agencies are the main promoters, but also some consultant’s have a well-recognized role. Some of these networks have a very high level of advancement, as they have been in effect for several years, and have brought together experts and users in very specific fields, while others are still developing. Sharing the experiences among the networks can provide useful insights for better enhancing life cycle practices and learning from most advanced and successful stories on the promotion of life cycle based practices, applications and use in the decision making processes.

      The Special Session on LCA networks was aimed at providing a platform for exchange of experiences among LCA networks with the purpose of:
      1. Better understanding the role of networks in the present phase of the LCA
      2. Raising the awareness on the networks' activities, with dissemination of life cycle issues;
      3. Fostering their development and interaction with national and international regulation
      4. Learning from success stories
      Sessions topics and presenters included:
      1. Goal and scope of the Special Session, Paolo Masoni (ENEA)
      2. The LCA networks at global level, Sonia Valdivia (UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative)
      3. IberoAmerican Life Cycle Network: from strategy to action, Ana Quiros (IberoAmerican LC Network)
      4. The Hungarian LCA network, Klára Szita (Tóthné)
      5. 20 years of LCA network activities in Switzerland: The contribution of the LCA forum to the scientific debate, Rolf Frischknecht (LCA Discussion Forum)
      6. The Italian LCA network, Bruno Notarnicola (LCA Italian Network)
      7. SETAC networking for global LCA science and practice, Bruce Vigon (SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager)
      8. French networks, Anne Ventura (Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées)
      9. NorLCA, Allan Astrup Jensen (FORCE Technology, Denmark)
      The sessions, though scheduled at the end of the day, were attended by a large number of people (more than 60). What emerged from the sessions is a large variability among the networks in relation to different aspects:
      1. the geographical scope: from global (UNEP and SETAC) to regional (Ibero-America network, NorLCA) to national (French, Italian, Hungarian networks)
      2. the organisation: fully structured or voluntary informal network
      3. the funding (public, private or self funded by the members)
      However, some key success factors are common for any network. The final short discussion highlighted the consensus among the participants on the value of the networks as “multipliers of efforts” and the advantage of such an exchange of experience and the need for coordination. A preliminary form of collaboration has been identified, which consists of coordinating the efforts in organising events, so to avoid duplication of efforts. The next SETAC LCA case study symposium will be held in Copenhagen in 2012.

      More information, together with presentations will be available at

      Author contact information:
  • Ecologically Relevant Endpoints
    • Amadeu MVM Soares (Universidade de Aveiro , Portugal) and Alessio Ippolito (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy)

      The main objective of ecotoxicology is producing the scientific bases for protecting the structure and function of ecosystems. However, the traditional ecotoxicological methods are based on laboratory tests on individual plant and animal species and extrapolation to the actual consequences for natural biological communities is problematic. Some ecotoxicological tools, often applied in field studies, such as biomarkers, refer to low hierarchical levels (molecular, cellular, individuals) and the links to ecologically relevant effects at higher hierarchical levels, such as population dynamics or structure and functions of biological communities, are largely unknown. To cover this gap, there is a strong need for coupling experimental data developed at low hierarchical level with data produced through studies on more complex systems, either on controlled experimental structures (e.g. mesocosms) or on natural populations and communities, in order to better understand the effects of stress factors on ecologically relevant systems.

      In the Ecologically Relevant Endpoints session we were presented with six different case studies, two of them of a broad nature since they were reporting two big studies, one ongoing in Canada and the other concluded in Europe. The Canadian study clearly showed that many times standard ecotoxicity testing and procedures does not provide us with sufficient, reliable information regarding the true environmental effects of chemical substances. The European study reported the wider results of a European-funded research project. In addition to these two presentations, the other four addressed specific questions of the ecological relevance of some “classic” endpoints, such as feeding inhibition and egg hatching and juvenile fish survival. One could conclude that despite the need to sort out some confounding factors when using these type of endpoints, they are already capable of predicting ecologically significant effects that the more classical ecotoxicological endpoints and testing are unable to predict and/or that underestimate effects (i.e., as in the case of the radionuclide biology at low levels of uranium exposure). The session was concluded by pointing to old and new needs for the development of tools that are more ecologically relevant and that must be able to tackle the problems of chemical mixtures and the interaction of chemical stressors with the natural and abiotic conditions.

      All platform presentations were of high quality, and notwithstanding the recommendation to contact the other presenters, we strongly suggest contacting presenters of ET04-3 and ET04-6.

      Authors’ contact information:;
  • PBT Substances
    • Joan Grimalt (CSIC-IDAEA, Spain)

      This session was devoted to assessing the state-of-the-art on environmental issues related with persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) substances and the policies that have been implemented for their regulation. PBT substances are being regulated by the EU chemical legislation framework REACH. Although the evaluation criteria are laid down in guidelines, several issues are still unclear and need further scientific clarification and practical guidelines. The session covered a broad range of topics from screening of large numbers of substances on their PBT properties to the testing and assessment of persistent compounds to case studies and monitoring in the environment and in human tissues. In the light of the very large number of chemicals put on the market, an effective screening procedure might be very helpful. Martin Scheringer proposed a computer-assisted methodology to identify candidates for PBT assessment out of more than 100,000 potential candidate substances.

      Persistence is by far the most uncertain part of the assessment. The OECD 308 water-sediment test was critically evaluated by Jörg Klasmeier. He pointed out that this test is a mixture of bioavailability and biodegradation and cannot be used for water degradation testing. If chemicals have a long-range transport potential (LRTP), they are flagged as substances of very high concern (SVHC). Christiane Zarfl developed a method to determine LRTP in fresh and marine water and compared new POS with the derived criteria.

      Identified PBT substances have to undergo a risk assessment to show their safe usage. Dolf van Wijk demonstrated that in the case of hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) the risk to marine organisms and the body burden of predator animals are low. Monitoring of PBT substances is of great importance to show their environmental concentrations in vulnerable compartments and sensitive food chains. Mercè Gari presented new measurements of adult populations in Catalonia and compared them to other countries. She found that women had higher concentrations of more volatile organochlorine compounds, which was unexpected due to the detoxification potential of women through breast-feeding. Breast milk is often used to investigate the bioaccumulation in humans and the body burden of babies. Marta Fort showed a good correlation between colostrums and blood serum and could show higher accumulation of the higher lipophilic compounds in colostrums.

      Overall, there was a consensus that PBT substances still constitute an open question in environmental assessment and that more studies are needed to elaborate useful regulation guidelines. More than 100 participants attended the session, which demonstrates the high interest in PBT substances, their scientific investigation and reliable assessment.

      Author contact information:

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