SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
16 April 2015
Volume 16 Issue 4

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SETAC Barcelona Boasts Excellent Keynote Speaker Lineup

Carlos Barata, CISC

The SETAC Barcelona organizing committee is pleased to announce that three renowned professionals will be delivering their keynote addresses as part of the SETAC Europe 25th Annual Meeting from 3–7 May in Barcelona, Spain. We are excited that all have agreed to participate in our 25th anniversary celebration and annual meeting.  Their bios can be found at, and their abstracts are listed below.

Peter Calow

Peter Calow, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA
Sunday's Keynote

“Then and now…and beyond; some personal reflections on 25 years of the Society and its science”

Having been involved in the foundation of SETAC in Europe, Peter Calow will offer a personal take on how the science has developed over the past 25 years together with some stories about his interactions with the society and its members. One aspect of the development of the science has been a shift from concerns about reliability and repeatability to an increasing preoccupation with the somewhat elusive concept of relevance. From Sheffield to Barcelona, annual meetings have embraced these issues and ensured that they have been given due attention. As we go forward and grapple with making even more of a difference for public environmental policy, the future may well invite a broader scope for our collaborations including, for example, the social sciences and economics.

John Colbourne

John Colbourne, University of Birmingham, UK
Monday's Keynote

“Towards a big data-driven solution for cooperative and effective management of chemical risks”

EU lawmakers have taken the bold step of legislating the need to assess the toxicity of all chemicals sold in Europe (REACH). This has spurred science to provide a robust and cost-effective solution. However, there are huge scientific constraints in determining the environmental and human health risks for an ever-increasing number and diversity of consumer products, while toxicity testing fails to keep pace with modern biology. This has created an enormous backlog of chemicals that have yet to be assessed for potential health hazards.

Considering the scale of the current problem and realistic future projections, a shift to next-generation assays is both timely and necessary. The proposed solution is phylogenetic toxicology, which applies high-throughput toxicity testing with data-rich genomics assays applied to 3R compliant model species representing animal biology. These include biomedical and ecologically relevant organisms that altogether can deliver experimentally derived predictions of a chemical’s modes of actions and key events in the etiology of illness or injury. This solution to chemical risk assessment incorporates an important discovery made within the past 10 years in studies of the functional elements in animal genomes; a significant suite of elements and their functional associations for growth, maintenance and reproduction is shared among animals (including humans) representing over 60 percent of transcribed and epigenetically modified genomes. This crucial finding is reinvigorating the use of experimental, scientifically and legally accepted biomedical alternative model species for understanding the human condition. This finding also provides a proven platform for the necessarily big and transformative set of experiments that combine genomics, metabolomics, evolutionary theory, bioinformatics and toxicology to meet the regulatory challenges of today and tomorrow.

Ultimately, the chemical safety reporting practice of tomorrow should be based on key events described within adverse outcome pathways and predicted to be shared with humans and other untested species using statistical and evolutionary principles. Future safety testing of chemicals will therefore be based on obtaining prescribed types of useful information instead of following prescribed methods of satisfying regulatory requirements, which is made inexpensive by enabling technologies.

This talk is delivered on behalf of the Consortium for Environmental Omics and Toxicology.

Mira Petrovic

Mira Petrovic, ICRA, Catalan Institute for Water Research, Spain
Tuesday's Keynote

“Wastewater-derived contaminants of emerging concern. Current and future challenges”

Treatment of wastewaters from domestic and industrial practices is of crucial importance in modern society. The increase in urban population, changing lifestyles and industrialization results in increase quantity of wastewater that requires treatment before it can be discharged into the aquatic environment or reused for any purpose. In parallel, the use of chemicals by our technological society is continuously growing and currently can be estimated in some hundreds of thousands of compounds (most of them organics) in daily use. Since the early 1970s, municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) were basically designed to remove pathogens, nutrients, and organic and inorganic suspended and flocculated matter but not microcontaminants. Since 1980, the rise of health concerns related to microcontaminants has driven the development of new treatment technology (biotic and abiotic membrane treatments, advance oxidation and reduction processes, electrochemical treatments, combined processes, etc). However, in spite of a range of advanced treatment options available, not all organic contaminants are removed at urban WWTP typically using secondary biological treatment (CAS – conventional activated sludge), and discharge of treated effluents result in degraded receiving water quality. Therefore, WWTP effluents are considered the principle route of entry of many microcontaminants into the environment. Most concerning are polar compounds that are, due to their physico-chemical properties (high water solubility and often poor degradability), able to penetrate through all natural filtration steps and man-made treatments, thus presenting a potential risk in drinking water supply. Many of these compounds originate from consumer products used in households or from industry and are generally not regulated (i.e., emerging contaminants).

This work will overview current and future challenges related with the presence of microcontaminants of emerging concern in wastewaters such as:

  • The need to increase our knowledge about the fate of emerging microcontaminants during sewage treatment
  • The cumbersome task of identifying degradation products and understanding their contribution to the risk posed by emerging contaminants
  • The risk of understudied and never targeted compounds
  • The potentials and feasibility of advanced treatments
  • The occurrence of emerging contaminants in environmental waters in relationship to their removal in WWTP.

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