SETAC North America 2011 Boston – ERAAG Perspective
SETAC Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group
The SETAC North America 32nd Annual Meeting in Boston was a huge success from the perspective of the Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group (ERAAG)! The meeting highlighted several symposia that were focused on topics important and relevant in enhancing ecological risk assessments (ERAs). In fact, there were 16 platform sessions and numerous posters that covered some aspect of topics related to ERA. ERAAG members participated in many sessions and several special symposia were sponsored or co-sponsored by ERAAG, highlighting the importance of interactions among disciplines and advisory groups. Sessions ranged from enhancements of trophic transfer and bioaccumulation of contaminants to conducting risk assessments where specific examples were provided. Examples of the latter included regional-watershed-scale-integrated approaches, characterizing radiological risks from the Hanford site, and lessons learned from the Anniston PCB site. Species-specific examples included presentations of the role of chemical contamination on the American eel and other sessions on wildlife, amphibian, and reptile toxicology where data were presented that provided new tools in characterizing risks to these taxa. Debates and discussions, both within the sessions and in the hallways following sessions, showed that topics like sustainability are gaining momentum and the harm caused by remedial actions cannot be ignored. Of particular topical importance was the discussion of including remedial options a priori in the risk assessment process; a significant deviation from common practice.
Topics related to ecosystem services were also a great part of the SETAC Boston meeting. The value of ecosystem services in evaluating remedial options and characterizing resources has significantly advanced risk management and communication through illustrating the connectedness of pollution-related impacts – direct and indirect. Given the ever increasing number of new substances entering the environment, new tools to help characterize toxicity were discussed. In silico quantitative-structural-activity-relationship (QSAR) models were presented for various applications where benefits and uncertainties were provided. Recent advances in nanotechnology necessitated a session on the newest science in characterizing exposure as well as toxicity. Clearly, mass/mass or mass/volume chemical characterizations of nanoparticles in the environment will not be adequate and comprehensive particle characterization will be needed to ensure safety and characterize risk.
Many SETAC members have recognized the importance of global warming and there is a fundamental component related to ERA that is being explored. Clearly, rising sea levels and global temperatures and how that may influence variable weather patterns is a critical issue as our human population expands. A special symposium on the effects of global climate change and how pollution may affect/exacerbate populations was presented. The effects of altering weather patterns in environmental fate were also discussed, particularly in the polar geographical regions. As ERA practitioners, whether from regulatory, academia, or industrial perspectives, we need to ask whether decisions made in the current climate will be appropriate for a future with climate change. These topics, including methods for including climate change considerations in ERA, will be discussed in an upcoming series of papers in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in 2012.
Return to the Globe