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SETAC Brussels Session Summaries
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Session Summaries from SETAC Brussels

The recently concluded SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting, which was held from 7–11 May 2017 in Brussels, Belgium, was another successful meeting, attracting 2,079 delegates who could choose from 564 platform and 1,188 poster presentations. The theme of the meeting was “Environmental Quality Through Transdisciplinary Collaboration.” These session summaries provide examples of presentations and discussions during the meeting.

    Summaries Published in the September Issue (Volume 18 Issue 9)

  • Bridging Between Ecology, Ecotoxicology and Ecosystem Services
    Elisabeth M. Gross, Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Continental Environments; Gertie Arts, Wageningen Environmental Research; Lorraine Maltby, The University of Sheffield; and Sabine E. Apitz, SEA Environmental Decisions Ltd.

    • Ecosystems are exposed to multiple stressors, and understanding their effects on ecosystem structure and functioning is an important area of research in both ecology and ecotoxicology. Investigating how stressors interact and consequences for the functioning of individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems is important for understanding spatial and temporal variation in species distribution and ecosystem processes. In addition to maintaining a rich and diverse range of species, ecosystems provide multiple services for humans. Environmental assessment and management focusing on the preservation, optimization or restoration of ecosystem services, the benefits nature provides to people, is becoming increasingly important worldwide. This conceptual approach acknowledges that human economic activity, as well as all aspects of human well-being, are wholly dependent on functioning ecosystems. To examine these issues, we organized a special session involving experts from plant ecology and ecotoxicology to tackle the complexity of assessing and managing responses to multiple stressors at the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium. This meeting was dedicated to transdisciplinary collaboration.

      The special session was organized around two main themes, the first one on experimental approaches and response variables measured in ecology and ecotoxicology. This theme had a strong focus on plants, examining how these measurements elucidate ecosystem functioning, which is strongly dependent on plants. Plants, including algae, are at the base of food webs and fundamental in maintaining biogeochemical cycles. Plants also take up pollutants from soil, water or air, and they can transfer them to consumers higher up in the food chain. Understanding the processes of bioaccumulation is essential to the management of these pollutants. The latter half of the session focused on how to better integrate knowledge of ecosystem functions and services into regulation, risk assessment, remediation and restoration.

      Within the first theme, Elisabeth Gross, Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Continental Environments, and Gertie Arts, Wageningen Environmental Research, explored which response variables (“endpoints”) are suitable to detect effects of pollutants and other stressors, such as herbivory on plants at different ecological levels. They presented examples from studies with pesticides and trace metal elements, illustrating how direct and indirect effects at the individual, population, community and ecosystem level can be assessed. Endpoint selection does matter as different toxicity thresholds are observed, depending on the endpoint chosen. The next two presentations by Mark van Kleunen, University of Konstanz, and Iris Stiers, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, focussed on the impact of alien invasive plants in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Mark van Kleunen illustrated how we can use different “proxies” of plant performance from cellular processes such as photosynthesis via effects at the individual (survival, reproduction, biomass) and population level (growth rate) up to species performance (range size, number of habitats, abundance). Iris Stiers focused on community effects caused by aquatic alien invasive plants, specifically effects on the biodiversity of different functional groups, such as macroinvertebrates or zooplankton. Both highlighted the complexity of possible effects and interactions at the population and community level, such as competition, facilitation or herbivory, and potential consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem function.

      The second part of the session explored how close we are to adopting an ecosystem services approach to assessing and managing environmental risk. Annik Dollacker, Bayer AG, discussed what ecosystem services and resilience considerations can add to pesticide regulation and the sustainability of agriculture. She suggested that although it was not trivial to use these concepts rigorously in current regulatory frameworks, there were opportunities to broaden the perspective from risk mitigation to resilience building. The next presentation by Karin Nienstedt, European Commission, DG Sanco, described the application of the ecosystem services approach from a risk management and regulatory perspective. The protection goals, as laid down in EU regulations, are elaborated into specific protection goals in separate guidance documents; the different pillars underlying these regulations in the EU were compared. Lorraine Maltby, The University of Sheffield, presented the outcome of the Chemicals: Assessment of Risks to Ecosystem Services (CARES) project, which was a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary project. The project identified the advantages and challenges of adopting an ecosystem services approach to chemicals risk assessment. It highlighted the discrepancy between ecotoxicological studies, which mainly focus on structural endpoints, and an ecosystem services approach, which is also based on ecological processes. A need for quantified ecological production functions (EPFs) was also identified. Lawrence Kapustka, LK Consultancy, discussed the key attributes and challenges of implementation for these EPFs identified at a SETAC Pellston Workshop® on ecosystem services. EPFs describe the relationships between ecosystems and ecosystem services using models. Multiple EPFs are needed for a complete assessment. This requires a broader assessment than is currently performed. Finally, Sabine E. Apitz, SEA Environmental Decisions Ltd, addressed the state of the practice in the application of ecosystem services in retrospective risk assessment, remediation and restoration by describing a number of case studies in the context of various approaches to ecosystem service assessment. She concluded that the ecosystem services paradigm can be used to inform broader decisions, but that the devil was in the details – clarity and transparency is essential regarding approaches, assumptions, uncertainty and knowledge gaps.

      The contributions came from academia, industry, consultants and governmental institutions. The session was very well attended throughout both session blocks by a diverse audience of more than 100 participants. This allowed for a very lively discussion during the extended general discussions at the end of each session block. The session achieved its primary aim of fostering discussions and future interactions between fundamental science, industry and regulatory groups. The different presentations defined the terms and concepts they use to address questions in ecology, ecotoxicology and risk assessment in the context of a range of questions, facilitating a better understanding between fields and applications.

      It was concluded that our currently selected endpoints (response variables) in ecotoxicology and ecology focus on answering specific questions and reveal more complex interactions than anticipated. For different ecological levels this can for example be growth, survival and reproduction for the individual, or competition, facilitation and changes in biodiversity at the community level. However, these have to be regarded at different spatial and temporal scales, as effects can be dynamic. Many tools and case studies are available for ES-based assessment, but challenges remain. More sophisticated ecological production functions, broader regulatory approaches and better cross-disciplinary communication and stakeholder engagement would all enhance the utility of the ecosystem services paradigm in environmental management.

      As a future outlook, further scientific efforts are needed to link ecology and ecotoxicology to ecosystem services in a multidisciplinary and multistakeholder setting.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Engineered Nanomaterials: Needs, Goals and Tools or Methods for Safer-by-Design Strategies
    Gerardo Pulido-Reyes, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; Georgiana Amariei, University of Alcalá; Sonia Manzo, ENEA; and Simona Scalbi, ENEA

    • Nanomaterials, nanoproducts and nanotechnologies, included among the European Commission’s Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and green innovations, have attracted a lot of public and private resources for the development of new commercial products during the last 10 years. However, discussions about human and environmental safety threaten the investments because industry and regulatory authorities have differing opinions on how safe these materials are in the environment. Besides, there is no consensus inside the scientific community about the toxicity of Engineered NanoMaterials (ENMs) to humans and the environment. The fact that there are so many ENMs (with different nanoproperties) does not help to clarify this issue. Achieving safer-by-design ENMs requires a deep understanding of their intrinsic properties and of the behavior and the effects of these materials in the environment and in living systems. There are a number of intrinsic physicochemical properties of ENMs that affect the level of interaction between the nanomaterials and the cells or organisms, including colloidal stability; size, surface charge, shape, redox or catalytic activity; and aspect ratio, surface coatings and functionalization or dissolution of metallic ENMs. Another central point is to identify the common basic needs for the Environment and Human Health Safety (EHS) assessment during the design, production, use and end of life phases of ENMs.

      This session was focused on experimental studies that show new evidences of the key physicochemical parameters, which grouped ENM according to their behavior and fate in the environment, the effect of co-exposure of ENMs with other classes of pollutants, and different approaches to deal with the uncertainties around the environmental and health risks from ENM under the light of an integrated risk assessment.

      Four platform presentations, four poster spotlights and 15 posters were delivered in the session. The first two presentations dealt with the topic of ENMs interactions and potential toxicity in ecosystems. One addressed the grouping of ENM and read-across strategies between different materials for future risk assessment; in particular, the biological effect of ENM intrinsic properties with special emphasis in agglomeration, role of dissolved ion, surface charge, coatings and speciation of nanoparticles on the soil systems. The second presentation was focused on studying the adsorption of micropollutants from a real biologically treated wastewater effluent on nano-oxide particles and their biological effects on a relevant aquatic organism. Nanoparticles and organic compounds, both emerging contaminants, are expected to occur together into the water compartments, but little is known about the interactions between chemicals and nanoparticles and on how these interactions may affect the biological organization of aquatic ecosystems. The authors of the second platform presentation showed that the reduced toxicant bioavailability, due to the adsorption of wastewater micropollutants on the surface of nanoparticles, was identified as the main driver explaining the antagonistic effect observed at low concentrations. Moreover, it is interesting to note that this phenomenon may take place with naturally occurring nanoparticles.

      The next two presentations mainly addressed the ENM risk control methodology. The first one reported in the frame of the Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) Project, the development and the implementation of the SUN Decision Support (SUNDS) system that allows a comparative analysis of risks, benefits and costs. SUNDS has a risk control (RC) module that supports the control of human health and ecological risks by assessing risk control strategies through nano-enabled product lifecycle and a Socioeconomic Analysis (SEA) module that analyzes all environmental, economic and social impacts. Also, two case studies were reported: 1) nano-copper oxide-based wood preserving biocidal paint, compared with a conventional acrylic paint, and 2) a plastic automotive part (bumper). The results were used to create a sustainability portfolio. Moreover, the pilot tests provided information to improve the methodology. The second presentations described the Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment (RATA) tool developed by a large Dutch nanotechnology consortium. RATA provides a basis to assess human, environmental and societal risks of new technological developments during the various stages of technological development.

      The first two poster spotlights highlighted the importance of examining the mechanisms of action of several ENMs. All this knowledge is completely necessary for addressing safer-by-design strategies. The other two suggested a framework to calculate the environmental, safety and health impacts of nanofertilizers and a framework to assess the regulatory adequacy of ecotoxicity data for nanomaterials relevance and reliability revisited (NanoCRED). Fifteen posters were presented that dealt with the biological effects of a variety of ENMs in a myriad of cells and organisms, and also on diverse approaches aimed to make more robust the ENM risk assessment procedures.

      Overall, the selected works addressed both global descriptors of biological activity, the effect of ENMs on real matrices and the integration of the ENM assessment methods to evaluate the environment and human health safety. Conclusions from this session will be useful in developing safer-by-design strategies and in EHS assessment of ENMs.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Summaries Published in the August Issue (Volume 18 Issue 8)

  • Toxicology and Ecotoxicology: Bridging the Gaps
    Violaine Verougstraete, Eurometaux; Lucia Vergauwen, University of Antwerp (UA); Bruno Campos, Spanish National Research Council (IDAEA); Dominique Lison, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL); Maurice Whelan, Joint Research Centre (JRC); Dries Knapen, University of Antwerp (UA)

    • This special session was conceived to address the question, “How can ecotoxicologist and toxicologist communities move from ‘simple’ complementarity towards synergism in chemical risk assessment and management?”

      This question was the driver to set up a collaboration between SETAC and EUROTOX, with complementary sessions on this topic at the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in Belgium, Brussels, in 2017 and at EUROTOX 2018, bringing together members of both societies representing all the interested stakeholders (academia, regulators, industry). The aim of the session was to assess where the most robust knowledge bridges can be built by identifying common issues and approaches, but also differences. Interactions were stimulated around four selected “hot topics” in both worlds: mixtures, endocrine disruptors, the use of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) and fish embryo models.

      The session included two parts: Part I addressed “Contemporary Toxicological Challenges,” and Part II discussed “Models and Frameworks.” Each part offered four presentations structured around two topics, each topic being addressed from a toxicological and ecotoxicological perspective.

      Topic 1: Challenges in Risk Assessment of Mixtures

      Christer Hogstrand, a toxicologist from King’s College London and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), demonstrated that there are striking similarities between toxicology and ecotoxicology in terms of the four risk assessment pillars (problem formulation, exposure assessment, hazard assessment, risk characterization and uncertainty analysis), the use of tiered approaches, and models to describe effects of mixtures. There are, however, differences between the two areas, e.g., in the protection goals. While the aim of human health risk assessment is to protect individuals, in ecotoxicology protection is about populations and ecosystems. Because of this discrepancy, there are also differences in what is considered a biologically meaningful effect: While ecotoxicologists refer to survival, growth and reproduction, human health refers to any effect that could be considered undesirable. Because similarities between human and ecological risk assessment of chemical mixtures prevail over the differences, this is an excellent topic for building bridges between the areas. EFSA has launched a working group to develop harmonized frameworks for human and ecological risk assessment of combined exposure to multiple chemicals. Its output is expected to contribute significantly to bridging the gap between these two areas.

      Ad Ragas, an ecotoxicologist from Radboud University Nijmegen, pursued the debate by highlighting that there are several ways of addressing the challenge of mixture toxicity, which are useful both for ecotoxicology and toxicology. Examples he used included quantifying varying exposures in space and time, grouping chemicals based on common mechanism of action, dealing with multiple mechanisms of actions and applying a threshold for mixtures and interactions. He stressed that in his view there is already enough knowledge to act, and he listed a number of concepts around which ecotoxicologists and toxicologists could work together: The use of a mixture assessment factor, application of concentration addition, case-specific mechanistic assessments and bioassays for whole mixture toxicity assessment.

      Topic 2: Challenges in Risk Assessment of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

      Sharon Munn, a toxicologist from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) illustrated the common goals of both the toxicologist and ecotoxicologist communities relevant to the risk assessment of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). The topic is relatively new for both communities and requires mechanistic data to be generated systematically, which is a good basis for collaboration. She stressed the importance of the common ancestry among vertebrates, allowing for extrapolation across species. The currently ongoing revision of the 2012 OECD Conceptual Framework is an opportunity to assess whether data on mammalians can be used to support a potential endocrine disrupting (ED) mechanism of action for non-mammalian organisms and vice-versa, and also to identify any limitations (e.g., linked to differences in toxicokinetics).

      James Wheeler, an ecotoxicologist at Dow AgroSciences, started by listing some important differences between ecotoxicology and toxicology, including the fact that toxicology uses a small set of species to extrapolate findings to one species, while ecotoxicology uses a larger set of species and extrapolates to all species (last estimate 8.7 million!) to be protected. Further, adversity is defined at the population level bringing its own data interpretation challenges. He also presented common issues, including high variability of the endpoints and the fact that none of the endpoints are solely diagnostic of endocrine disruption. AOP networks could be especially helpful in the context of separating whether effects are derived from endocrine or non-endocrine toxicities.

      Topic 3: Using Adverse Outcome Pathways as a Common Framework

      Alan Boobis, a toxicologist at Imperial College London, explained that by applying AOPs, we can use properly engineered key assays and predict outcomes based on reproducible tests. Such a bottom-up approach, in contrast to the conventional top-down approach in which toxicity is first detected at a high level and consequently the mechanism is investigated at lower levels, allows researchers to reduce the use of animal testing. It also requires a clear definition of the biological space that needs to be covered with AOPs. These considerations are valid for both protection of human health and the environment. He stressed the importance of designing a framework and formulating guidance for application of AOPs in risk assessment.

      Daniel Villeneuve, an ecotoxicologist from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, added that AOPs support hypothesis-driven testing and targeted in vivo testing using endpoints of concern. AOPs can inform appropriate cross-species extrapolation and focus testing on specific species, life-stages and taxa of concern. He presented AOPs as a way of organizing information shared through a knowledge base (, which is equally helpful for both toxicology and ecotoxicology. He presented an example focused on disruption of thyroid hormone signalling that illustrated how mechanistic information from mammalian and non-mammalian model species can be integrated in an AOP network and used as a basis to identify assays for thyroid disruption screening across species for both toxicological and ecotoxicological risk assessment.

      Topic 4: The Use of the Fish Embryo as a Common Model

      Marc Leonard, an ecotoxicologist at L’Oreal, started by explaining the legal basis for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, leading to the idea of using the fish embryo as an alternative to fish used for aquatic ecotoxicity testing. For the consumer safety assessment of cosmetics, an animal testing ban is in place and in this case, a fish embryo test (FET) provides a valid alternative. He outlined the chronology of the development of the FET, from its validation up to the recent European Chemical Agency (ECHA) workshop where its use in Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) was discussed. The speaker elaborated on perspectives, including the application of a threshold approach to reduce the need for the FET, considering that fish are often not the most sensitive taxon, the use of the FET for early screening and detection of chemicals with poor environmental profiles, for endocrine disruptor screening and for predicting chronic toxicity.

      Steven Van Cruchten, a toxicologist from the University of Antwerp, explained that several protocols have been copied from ecotoxicology to toxicology. In toxicology, the fish embryo is mostly used to assess developmental toxicity in the zebrafish embryofoetal development toxicity assay (ZEDTA) and, to a lesser extent, also for assessing acute toxicity. He compared the FET and the ZEDTA and presented a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis. He concluded that the ZEDTA is promising, but it is important to know (the limitations of) the model and the study design, confirm exposure and harmonize methods among different laboratories prior to exploration of regulatory acceptance.


      The session was very well attended, and there was a lot of interest during the panel discussions organized after each set of four presentations. For each of the topics, the speakers identified opportunities for synergies, provided that terminologies can be harmonized or clarified and common workflows can be defined. Bridges can be built to allow sharing of frameworks and data between toxicology and ecotoxicology. The human health counterpart to this special session will take place from 2–5 September at Eurotox 2018 at the same venue, The Square Brussels Meeting Centre. Ultimately, these sessions will serve as a starting point for further collaboration between both societies by forming a network of scientists from both fields willing to work together, building up knowledge that can be commonly used.

      Authors’ contact information:,,,, and

  • Wildlife Ecotoxicology: Cumulative Effects Through the Food Chain to the Community
    John Elliott, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Veerle Jaspers, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Renaud Scheiffler, University of Franche-Comté; and Kim Fernie, Environment and Climate Change Canada

    • Wildlife, including birds, mammals and amphibians, are exposed to a wide range of contaminants. Generally, chronic low-level exposure does not result in direct mortality, but animals show lower fitness and may be more vulnerable to other stressors. In contrast, effects of acute toxicity may be relatively obvious, including mortality, although affected animals may be difficult to find in the field. Linking subtle molecular or “biomarker” effects to individual health can be challenging, and linking effects detected at the individual level, even mortality, to impacts at the population level is even more difficult. For both regulatory purposes and risk assessment, it is essential to obtain information on risks from acute and chronic exposure scenarios, and to attempt to determine links between measurable biomarkers, other stress factors and implications for populations, and even communities.

      In this session, we solicited presentations studying effects from molecular to higher levels organization, and in particular studies making connections between levels of organization and with other environmental variables. The poster and platform presentations submitted to the session gave a good coverage of this topic. Presenters came from different European countries, Canada and Brazil.

      Here are key points from the five platform presentations:

      1. The first presentation by Renske Hoondert (Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands) highlighted the possibility to construct field-based species sensitivity distributions (SSD) based on EC10s of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in wild birds using quantile regression. This modeling exercise used reproductive toxicity data from 11 species and suitable thresholds for environmental risk assessment were derived.
      2. The effects of historic mining activities in a terrestrial ecosystem were addressed by Nico Van den Brink (Wageningen University, Netherlands). Mercury was measured in soil, vegetation and Arctic barnacle goslings in control and mining areas near Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen. In addition to higher concentrations of mercury found near mining areas, effects were found in goslings on D2-receptor levels in the brain and on behavior (number of jumps).
      3. The effect of newly created habitats on the exposure to pollutants (ecological traps) was investigated by John Elliott (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada) using American dippers to study the impact by run-of-river (RoR) dams on mercury exposure. Alpine ponds created by RoR dams form a year-round habitat for dippers where methymercury production can occur by bacteria (who are responsible for 34S depleted food webs at regulated streams).
      4. Shinji Ozaki (UMR-CNRS, France) addressed the question whether community diversity within a trophic level has an impact on the pollutant transfer to a higher trophic level. The study analyzed the exposure of small mammals to trace metals in accordance to dietary richness with different results, depending on the metal and the conditions (soil contamination, presence of specific species).
      5. The effect of rodenticides on population dynamics in voles was investigated by Javier Fernandez-de-Simon (UMR-CNRS, France) using a biomathematical modeling approach. Different scenarios were investigated (with and without bromadiolone use and with and without red foxes as predators). Final vole densities were highest in scenarios including generalist predators (red foxes).

      The active discussion during the session brought up several important points to consider:

      1. SSDs should be established for more emerging compounds in the future, but this can only be done when more data on wild birds becomes available (at least from 10­–15 species with 20–25 data points)
      2. Design of experiments should take the sibling effect into account to give more emphasis to statistical analysis by comparing individuals with a similar genetic background
      3. Ecological traps can take different forms and sizes, and although the effect may not be apparent at first, the age of the pond and environmental factors such as pH should be take into account
      4. When investigating the transfer of pollutants through a foodweb, not only dietary richness but rather the consumption of specific species (e.g., Salicaceae that are hyperaccumulators of metals, such as cadmium) and the background contamination level of the soil are very important
      5. Modeling population dynamics can provide very useful information for risk managers and for addressing best agricultural practices (for both farmers and wildlife)


      Presenters addressed the impact of different human disturbance on wildlife populations and communities. This included activities such as (historic) mining and metal smelting, RoR dams, agricultural practices, game hunting, electric transformer usage, industrial activities and urbanization. In addition, the importance of specific hot spots and regulatory efforts were investigated. The development of different modeling tools may aid risk assessment and management, provided that enough data on wildlife species are available. Richard Shore (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK) presented another interesting approach where he showed that autopsy measurements over time can be used as health indices to provide early warning of impacts on populations.

      There is a need to get more data on several species regarding reproduction and population dynamics in order to provide better tools for risk assessment for both legacy and emerging compounds. In particular, data on developing regions are scarce and should be prioritized. The effects of growing industry, agriculture and urbanization in those areas may have devastating effects on the wildlife, and lessons should be learned from what has happened and is still happening in developing countries.

      Author’s contact information:

  • Microplastics, Nanoplastics and Co-contaminants: Fate, Effects and Risk Assessment for Biota, the Environment and Human Health
    Matthew Cole, University of Exeter; Ana Isabel Catarino, Herriot Watt University; Maria Cristina Fossi, University of Siena; Albert Koelmans, Wageningen University

    • Plastic pollution is one of today's major environmental issues. There are concerns that plastic particles may pose a risk to the natural environment, food security and human health. At the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in Brussels, we chaired a session considering the fate and impact in the natural environment of nanoplastics (nanoscopic plastic, < 100 nm) and microplastics (100 nm–5 mm), the size definition of which is still debatable.

      Micro- and nanoplastic research has advanced considerably in recent years, which was shown in the high number and quality of presented works. We oversaw 15 oral and 45 poster presentations from researchers across the globe. All talks being well received, and the attendees engaged in a lively discussion, raising pertinent questions for the presenters to address and fellow attendees to consider. 

      The presented research centered around three main themes: Interactions between plastic and biological matrices, ecotoxological effects of plastic particulates in both freshwater and marine biota, and the relationship between plastic and associated contaminants (i.e., persistent organic pollutants). Here, we summarize overarching themes discussed within this session and highlight emergent research questions, which we believe require greater attention in future investigation efforts.

      1. Plastic exposures. In previous years, experimental work has mainly considered the impacts of spherical microbeads. As an indication of the rapid progression within this field, experimental work presented here incorporated a far wider range of plastics, varying by polymer, shape, size, concentration and weathering status, bringing a far greater environmental relevance to the field. Polyethylene was highlighted as a polymer of particular interest (e.g., Inger Lise Nerland, NIVA, Norway, and Therese Karlsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden), even if exposure concentrations can be difficult to confirm at times due to its high buoyancy. Effects observed are highly dependent on particle concentration, size and exposure, an aspect put in evidence by contrasting presentations, and generalizations need to be considered prudently.
      2. Trophic transfer. The capacity for nanoplastic particles to be trophically transferred (i.e., pass from one animal to another up the food chain) was evidenced in freshwater food chains by both Corin Liddle (University of Exeter, UK) and Yooeun Chae (Konkuk University, South Korea). A key question now is whether apex predators are at risk of accumulating plastic or whether the relatively short residence times of plastics within intestinal tracts would prevent magnification up the food chain. The quantification of plastic within food webs would be particularly valuable in predicting risk to biota and food destined for human consumption (e.g., shellfish, fish).
      3. Effects of plastic particles and contaminants. The difference between particle effects and the effects of associated contaminants can be difficult to establish. Tackling this issue, Cristina Panti (University of Siena, Italy) quantified associated PCBs to particles and presented their effects using molecular biomarkers of immune function and histological investigations. Pauline Pannetier (University of Bordeaux, France) showed that extracted contaminants from naturally weathered particles present toxic effects in medaka cell lines and larvae. Studies are evolving in an attempt to establish environmental risk. For instance, in a mesocosm design, Paul Redondo-Hasselerharm (Wageningen University, Netherlands) showed that at representative concentrations in freshwater systems no effects are observed in key species. Further, Alice Horton (Center for Ecology and Hydrology, UK) showed the presence of microplastic affected toxicity of pesticides (deltamethrin and dimethoathe) in Daphnia magna based on different hydrophobicities. The use of molecular markers brought a new angle to a number of studies; however, it was evident that linking molecular effects to biomarkers of health can be problematic and do not necessarily isolate whether observed impacts derive from inflammatory or toxic responses to plastic.
      4. POPs. When it comes to the role of plastic as a vector of POPs or other hydrophobic contaminants, sorption and distribution are crucial processes to understand. Sven Seidensticker (University of Tuebingen, Germany) validated a novel model, showing how sorption kinetics can depend on the concentration of dissolved organic matter. Ricardo Beiras (University de Vigo, Spain) studied the vector effect of plastic in sea urchin embryo tests, concluding that the results do not support a role for microplastic as vectors of potentially harmful organic pollutants to zooplanktonic organisms.
      5. Biotic-plastic interactions. While there is understandably huge interest in how plastics can affect the health of biota, two student papers highlighted the capacity for biotic interactions to affect the properties of the plastics. In exploring the effects of plastics on Antarctic krill, Amanda Dawson (Griffith University, Australia) identified that egested microplastics were notably smaller than those ingested; further experiments revealed the mandibles and gastric-mill were capable of degrading plastics into significantly smaller particles. Adam Porter (University of Exeter, UK) presented work on artificial marine snows, highlighting their capacity for transporting otherwise buoyant plastics into deeper waters, making them bioavailable to benthic dwelling species.

      The research presented at SETAC was representative of the vast progression in the field over recent years. Further attention should be given to teasing out the underlying mechanisms by which plastics and associated co-contaminants cause harm to organisms as it remains unclear whether inflammatory or toxic responses are responsible for observed health effects. On a broader scale, the fate and ecological repercussions of plastic on aquatic ecosystems, particularly in relation to predicted future emissions, remains an overarching question. Lastly, there is currently very little research considering the risk plastic poses to human health, and we were therefore delighted to hear early research from Stephanie Wright (King’s College, UK) regarding the potential for respiratory uptake of airborne plastic particles in humans. We look forward to exploring these issues further next year at the SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting in Rome, Italy.

      Author’s contact information:,, and

  • Engineered Nanomaterial Effects on Soil and Terrestrial Communities
    Moira McKee, Juliane Filser, Maria Engelke, University of Bremen; Patricks Otomo, University of the Free State

    • Due to their unique characteristics, the use and emission of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) is steadily rising and with it are the concerns about their effects on the environment. Soils are considered major sinks for diverse ENM; therefore, the focus of this session was on the potential risks for organisms and communities of this environmental compartment. A knowledge gap still exists concerning realistic exposure scenarios, and the goal of the session was to help fill this gap and to present and discuss new approaches and findings.

      The studies presented looked at the effects of ENM on a broad range of terrestrial and soil organisms. Impacts of aging, soil parameters, application form and formulation of ENM on the toxicity to soil microorganism, invertebrates (especially Collembola) and plants were presented and discussed by the participants of this session. Here, genetic, physiological, sublethal and lethal endpoints, as well as defense mechanisms received attention. Also, new findings on the potential of bioaccumulation, the toxicokinetic behavior and long-term multigenerational effects of ENM in a variety of different soil test systems were discussed by the experts. Further illustrating the complexity of the studied systems, one talk examined how entire microbial communities can be influenced by ENM input. Additional session highlights included the presentation of new approaches of ENM exposure, comparison to other environmental stressors and effects on functional diversity.

      The session included the following presentations:

      1. Yujiia Zhai (Leiden University, The Netherlands) presented results demonstrating that particulate forms of Ag, ZnO and CuNP change soil microbial functional diversity of a natural community. Depending on the size and shape of the nanoparticle, the particulate and ionic form contribute in different proportions to the toxicity. She also found that applying a time-weighted average concentration approach for calculating EC50s was more realistic due to the dynamic exposure to ENM.
      2. A new test system with only pore-water exposure of Collembola to AgNP was presented by Moira McKee (University of Bremen, Germany). It showed that the components of the artificially mixed OECD soil (peat, sand, kaolin clay) affect the toxicity of AgNP differently.
      3. In a multi-generation study with tungsten carbide cobalt NM Folsomia candida reproduction was decreased at concentrations above 1600 mg kg-1.  Jeroen Noordhoek (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) found that Collembola recovered from stress perceived by earlier generations.
      4. Susana Loureiro (University of Aveiro, Portugal) showed toxicity data gained from Collembola reproduction tests with nano and non-nano copper agrochemicals. No significant differences could be detected between the two forms of copper; however, soil type and spiking time did affect toxicity.
      5. “Do we worry too much? Nanoparticles and other stressors’ effects to a soil-grown legume at realistic exposure levels” was the title of Fabienne Schwab’s (Adolphe Merkle Institute, Switzerland) talk, in which effects of AuNP were compared with those of other stressors. The anatomical changes seen in AuNP treatments were similar to drought stress and strong defense mechanisms were also observed.

      Overall, the session demonstrated how diverse and complex the research field of nanoparticle effects in soils is and that there are still many unknowns. However, it also became clear that many efforts have been and are being made to gain insight on nanotoxicity in soils by developing new methods and providing information for adequate risk assessment.

      Authors’ contact information: ,, and

  • Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances: Recent Developments, Sources, Transport, Fate and Toxicity
    Lutz Ahrens, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Zhanyun Wang, ETH Zurich; Annegret Biegel-Engler, German Environment Agency; and Ronald Bock, The Chemours Company

    • Per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFASs) are extremely persistent and found ubiquitously in the environment. More than 3,000 substances are known today. This session focused on the recent developments in the field of legacy and alternative PFASs and how these developments further contribute to our understanding of PFASs in the environment. Specifically, this session put emphasis on those emerging and novel PFASs for which analytical methods are lacking and whose properties, exposure and risks are still being investigated.

      Ian Ross (Arcadis, UK) presented the compared three different total organic fluorine methods including total oxidizable precursor (TOP) method, particle-induced gamma emission (PIGE) spectroscopy and adsorbed organic fluorine (AOF) using combustion ion chromatography. The analysis of soil and groundwater from PFAS-contaminated sites demonstrated that legacy PFAS (i.e., perfluorooctanoate [PFOA] and perfluorooctane sulfonate [PFOS]) accounted only for a small fraction of the total PFAS present in the impacted soil and groundwater sites.

      Sara Valecchi (Water Research Institute, Italy) investigated the total concentrations of PFASs and their precursors using the TOP method in surface and wastewaters. The method was successfully applied to evaluated the fate of PFASs in wastewaters in receiving waters, which is useful for assessing the risk of PFASs to the environment and humans.

      Lutz Ahrens (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) demonstrated the evaluation of sources and transport of PFASs in a Swedish wastewater network and treatment plant. It was shown that PFASs originate dominantly from domestic waste and industrial applications. The efficiency of the removal of PFASs in WWTPs was shown to be poor.

      Rainer Lohmann (University of Rhode Island, USA) presented transport and profiles of PFASs in the Arctic Atlantic. He demonstrated that it is not adequate to only compare PFAS levels from surface water because there is a complex mixing in the Arctic water column. Interestingly, deeper Arctic Ocean layers remain mostly PFAS-free.

      Heidi Routti (Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway) demonstrated temporal trends and effects of PFASs in polar bears from Svalbard. Longer-chained perfluoroalkyl carboxylate (PFCA) concentrations increased and PFOS concentration was stable in polar bear plasma over time. Perfluorononanoate (PFNA) was found in highest concentration and was correlated with the peroxisome proliferator receptor alpha (PPARA), which indicates that this compound may disturb polar bear metabolism.

      Carla Ng (University of Pittsburgh, USA) concluded that drinking water levels in most regions exceed the USEPA health advisory levels. However, although there is a variety of PFASs present in water bodies, usually only PFOA and PFOS are measured. She emphasized the need to understand combined toxic effects of PFASs and underlined that emissions of these extremely persistent substances need to be prevented as soon as possible.

      Bowen Ti (Peking University, China) presented data on 6:2 chlorinated polyfluorinated ether sulfonate (F-53B), which is an alternative to PFOS and has become the main fluorinated organic pollutant in some Chinese water media. It was shown that F-53B is as persistent, bioaccummulative and toxic as PFOS and has a potential for long-range transport in the environment, and thus its production and usage should be regulated.

      Ane Urtiaga (Universty of Catabria, Spain) presented a method to remove PFAS from heavily contaminated waste waters by electrochemical oxidation by boron-doped diamond (BDD) anode. According to the study, the mineralization rate of selected PFASs is up to almost 100% and is a promising future treatment technique for PFASs.

      Ronald Bock (The Chemours Company, Switzerland) presented the importance of fluorinated technology in our modern society and the challenges for finding more sustainable alternatives to long-chain PFASs with equivalent performance. Voluntary measures, such as the USEPA stewardship program, are effective for the development of sustainable chemistries.

      Quinguo Huang (University of Georgia, USA) introduced the enzyme-catalysed oxidative humification assay (ECDHR), a method to effectively remove PFOA and PFOS in aqueous phase and soil slurries. The radicals created in this method are able to degrade even extremely stable substances. After 160 days of incubation, PFOA and PFOS were degraded significantly and a number of partially fluorinated alcohols and aldehydes were identified, which may prove the degradation of these compounds.

      Conclusions from the session include:

      1. Total organic fluorine methods are useful methods to measure the content of unknown PFASs; however, analytical methods need to be developed to identify PFAS present in the environment and organisms
      2. Improved understanding of the sources, long-range transport potential to remote regions and fate of PFAS is needed, including their exposure routes and associated risks on the ecosystem and humans
      3. Development of alternatives to PFASs need to take into account the alternatives’ performance as defined by the end users
      4. New treatment techniques for the degradation of PFASs are developed; however, methods are lacking for the application as a full-scale treatment technique for drinking water, wastewater and contaminated sites

      Ultimately, the session aimed to highlight recent milestone research, identified critical knowledge gaps and provided a roadmap for future research and options for regulation.

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Summaries Published in the July Issue (Volume 18 Issue 7)

  • Fish Model Species in Human and Environmental Toxicology
    Jessica Legradi, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Riccardo Massei, UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany Marek Pipal, Masaryk University

    • In the last several years, the use of fish model species in different research fields has increased in popularity due to their unique characteristics. As an example, models such as zebrafish (Danio rerio) or medaka (Oryzias latipes) are normally used to increase our understanding of human toxicological mechanisms and to study the vertebrates’ development. Moreover, fish species are also widely used in environmental research to comprehend the potential harm of organic and inorganic pollutants to aquatic life.

      The increased interest of scientists to use fish models was once again confirmed by the many participants in the session “Fish model species in human end environmental toxicology” at the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in Brussel, Belgium. Our session featured nine platform presentations, with high participation and interest from all the attendees. The session also included multiple poster presentations and highlighted 12 different species of fish, with a particular focus on the applicability of Danio rerio embryos in different studies. Presenters showed a large variety of innovative methodologies and laboratory techniques focusing on comprehensive multi-endpoints assay and testing strategies. Generally, it is clear that several scientists are trying to achieve a deeper knowledge regarding the in vivo effect of chemical mixtures. Moreover, there was an increase in the use of behavioral assays in tandem with molecular biomarkers (beyond classical acute toxicity testing) for the assessment of chemical toxicity. Especially the dark/lights stimuli with Danio rerio embryos seem to be a promising tool for the identification of neuroactive (e.g., pyrethroids) and endocrine disruptor substances at environmentally relevant concentrations. Danio rerio embryos were used in a multi-endpoint assay for the identification of toxicity pathways in sediment samples using passive dosing, a tool used to mimic more realistic exposure concentrations. Behavioral assays and transcriptomic procedures were also applied to understand the potential neurotoxicity of novel contaminants (e.g., nanoplastics) by starting to explore the detailed pathway of their toxic mechanism. Finally, Danio rerio embryos were successfully used in an effect-directed analysis study for the identification of specific key driver toxicants in river surface water.

      In summary, the session addressed highly diverse subjects and introduced numerous new ideas for the application of fish model species in different research areas. The presenters showed various novel assays and approaches for the identification of specific toxicity of chemical mixtures. Overall, the session was conducted in a collegial environment where it was possible to discuss new ideas due to the novelty of the presented works.

      We look forward to continuing the discussion at the SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting, which will be held from 13–17 May 2018 in Rome, Italy.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Modeling and Monitoring of Pesticides Fate and Exposure in a Regulatory Context
    Bernhard Gottesbüren, BASF SE, Christina Pickl, German Federal Environment Agency

    • The session comprised contributions and an exchange of viewpoints from regulatory authorities, industry, consultancy and academia, who presented and discussed the latest developments in the area of modeling and monitoring of fate and exposure of pesticides (including biocides) in the regulatory context in Europe as well as other regions of the world. Proposals were made how the regulatory assessment schemes should be improved and adapted as well as how potential risks could be identified and mitigated. Monitoring of pesticides and their metabolites in groundwater above regulatory thresholds of health-based screening levels gave rise to the question of the potential regulatory, as well as social or financial impacts. Monitoring studies, however, are also foreseen in the European regulatory assessment scheme to prove safe uses with regard to groundwater exposure, and thus allowing pesticides to be regulated at the EU level and assessed for national approvals. Participants presented and discussed concepts of national authorities in Germany and France.

      After years of being established in regulatory practice, the concepts for aquatic exposure assessment at the EU level are currently under revision. Multiyear aquatic exposure patterns based on FOCUS surface water scenarios are a potential improvement; however, a comparison of different interpretation options needs to be performed to provide a solid basis for decisions on how to include multiyear exposure data in adequately protective higher-tier aquatic risk assessments. Options for the spatial statistical population of the exposure assessment goal for aquatic organisms at the EU level were presented. A robust scientific basis was advocated for the development of scenarios in contrast to an approach that just further modifies existing historical scenarios. Furthermore, mechanisms for transport of pesticides to and behavior in aquatic sediment were presented and their relevance discussed in order to avoid unnecessary oversimplification in the exposure assessment. 

      Modeling pesticide spray drift for regulatory risk assessment was an important topic. It included a report on the progress of the SETAC Drift Representation and Assessment in Water (DRAW) working group, which intends to collect and scrutinize spray drift information to help improve sampling methodology, data evaluation and model development to support exposure assessment. Another presentation provided a concrete proposal on a countrywide risk assessment model for evaluating deposits of spray drift onto edge-of-field watercourses next to pome fruit orchards.

      Presenters addressed two different approaches to mitigate aquatic exposures. For mitigating pesticide runoff in agricultural catchment, priority zones were identified, and communication efforts focus on farmers in these zones to implement mitigation measures for runoff of pesticide to the river (i.e., grass buffer strips). A monitoring campaign will further assess and report on the effects of mitigation measures on water quality at a future SETAC meeting.  The potential of “on-line” constructed wetlands for mitigating pesticide transfers from agricultural land to surface waters was assessed using a combination of field monitoring and numerical modelling. Probably due to short solute residence times, concentrations and loads appeared to be unaffected by transit through the wetland over a range of flow conditions, which was in agreement with model predictions, suggesting that due to the long half-life of most pesticides, wetland systems would need to have a significant size in order to get any appreciable attenuation.

      Presenters compared several aquatic exposure assessment models for pesticide use on rice and discussed the status of their regulatory acceptance for pesticide registration in the United States, European Union, China and Japan. Studies showed a wide variation in perceived risk from pesticides used on rice. During the discussion, attendees proposed collecting monitoring data to support further model development for assessing the effects of pesticides used on rice crops.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Analysis of Big Monitoring Data: What Questions Can We Address?
    Martina G. Vijver, Leiden University, Gert Everaert, Flanders Marine Institute, and Jörg Römbke, ECT Oekotoxikologie GmbH

    • Many chemical and ecological data are collected under different research or monitoring programs. Merging different sets of data has significantly increased our ability to investigate and quantify how the multitude of stressors potentially alter biodiversity. In the platform presentations, focus was on the collection of data, the integration of non-simultaneously collected data coming from different sources, and on how to analyze large sets of data.

      There were three key points identified in the five presentations:

      1. Stephan Jänsch, ETC Oekotoxikologie, presented the public accessible Edaphobase. This database contains soil-dwelling species, mainly Lumbricidae and Enchytraeidae. Different research questions can be tackled with those data. It was shown that different earthworm species were found in different land use types. In the next presentation, Wilfried Schröder, University of Vechta, presented the results on a large monitoring program that was aimed to assess the condition of forests. In this presentation, Schröder demonstrated that key variables used to describe the ecosystem integrity were climate region, soil water budget and the nutrient budget.
      2. Ricardo Fornaroli, University of Milan, demonstrated how the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community is affected by changes in water chemistry variables and metal pollution. Jannicke Moe, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, presented experiences with compilation, management and analysis of aquatic monitoring data collected to quantify the impact of eutrophication. This presentation was based on the Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery (WISER) project. Through the use of an example on the integration of the plankton data, it was shown that there are many variations in dimensions, taxonomic variation of more than 2,500 species, geographical gradients, seasonal and long-term variations as well as nutrient data and water chemistry of 1,100 lakes.
      3. Martina Vijver, Leiden University, presented a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) on the new monitoring techniques that became recently available, and she discussed which of those emerging monitoring tools could provide cost effective means to replace or complement existing efforts to understand the status and functioning of aquatic ecosystems. This was achieved through a literature study and interviews, integrating the needs and ideas from the field and evaluating the mutual support between science and water managers.

      In the poster corner, five presentations provided specific applications in which the authors used different statistical techniques to analyze large sets of data. Stephan Nickel, University of Vechta, showed that in Germany a combination of methods was used, and a calculation of the minimum sample size (MSS) informed a decision about the reduction of the number of sampling sites in their biomonitoring network without losing statistical validity. Anders Ruus, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, and Yana Deschutter, Ghent University, made use of generalized additive models, which are the non-parametric alternative for General Linear Models (GLMs), to infer spatial and temporal trends to analyze large sets of marine data. Frederik Verdonck, ARCHE-Consulting, showed in his presentation that in order to link chemical contamination with biological effects in surface waters in Flanders, multivariate statistics, such as a principal component analysis and a linear discriminant analysis, were used. Dick de Zwart and Leo Posthuma, Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, illustrated how species sensitivity distributions (SSDs) can be used to summarize ecotoxicological data for more than 6,000 chemical substances

      Conclusions from the session included:

      1. Even though we are in an era where almost everything can be measured, data accessibility is still poor. Most of the times, only metadata are available to the public. Currently, open access of raw data is requested within specific proposal calls; however, the data often become available three to five years after the identified need in the proposal call.
      2. Due to the complexities of big data, data handling and associated modeling often requires increased efforts and a further depth of ecological knowledge to provide a meaningful interpretation of the results as compared to smaller and more specific datasets.

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Summaries Published in the June Issue (Volume 18 Issue 6)

  • Multigenerational, Epigenetic and Evolutionary Effects in Human and Environmental Toxicology: From Mechanisms to Risk Assessment
    Jana Asselman, Ghent University; Arnaud Chaumot, National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (IRSTEA); Michael Eckerstorfer, Environmental Agency Austria; and Elias Oziolor, Baylor University

    • Scientific evidence is indicating that environmental pollutants, including chemicals, biocides and plant protection products, may influence the regulation of epigenetic mechanisms and affect genomic elements conditioning evolutionary fate of populations. Examples of these influences include DNA methylation; histone modifications and microRNAs; and frequency and specific type of mutations, including point mutations and structural mutations such as copy number variation, insertions and deletions. These may in turn result in the long-term impact on fitness, health and disease in living organisms that may even be passed on to future generations. Yet, the disruptive potential in environmental toxicology still requires further characterization, due to our current limited knowledge of epigenetic and evolutionary effects in ecotoxicological model and non-model organisms. While epigenetic and evolutionary effects in humans and animal models are increasingly studied, the relevance of such effects for toxicological mechanisms are only generally understood.

      To date, incorporation of these concepts into the regulation of chemicals remains somewhat limited. Epigenetic and evolutionary effects present new challenges for risk assessment of chemical or product usage as their adverse outcomes often occur long after the exposure to potential stressors and pollutants. Such delayed effects can significantly affect future generations, which are either exposed only during germline development or never exposed to the initiating stressor (inter- and transgenerational effects). Although there is increasing scientific research reporting on multigenerational effects, and evidence of trans-generational effects of pollutants accumulating across a diversity of systems, little is still known about the biological variability and natural variation of epigenetic traits defining non-adversity. Further research is needed to assess the most informative epigenetic endpoints for chemical risk assessment, which will address key questions such as:

      1. When should a chemical or a class of chemicals causing significant epigenetic effects on humans and animals be classified as hazardous?
      2. How do we develop a standard test guideline for epigenetic effects?
      3. Can ecotoxicological organism models be used to develop effective and cost-efficient screening methods for epigenetic effects of chemicals in higher organisms including humans?
      4. How can multigenerational effects be assessed at the epigenetic level?

      It has been recognized by many researchers and regulators that these questions need to be further addressed to devise appropriate risk assessment procedures for epigenetic effects (cf., EFSA Scientific Colloquioum 22, June 2016; SETAC and iEOS joint focused topic meeting September 2016). Epigenetic studies supported by new technologies may provide substantial insight in how chemicals can alter regulatory processes at levels that do not necessarily result in overt toxicity but may significantly affect subsequent unexposed generations.

      In this session, presenters highlighted that a wide range of chemicals, including different heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can cause significant evolutionary and epigenetic effects in animal as well as in plant species. Case studies on genetic adaptation induced by environmental contamination (e.g., cadmium, zinc and organic pollutants) were presented, investigating evolutionary effects in pseudometallophyte plants throughout various European populations; assessment of field populations of killifish exposed to anthropogenic pollutants (e.g., PCBs and PAHs) for more than 50 generations; and the assessment of epigenetic effects using Daphnia under laboratory exposure conditions. These case studies demonstrated clear evolutionary effects in terms of deletions as well as copy number variation at the DNA level, which can be fixed at the population level and correlate with phenotypic shift in exposed populations. The latter study also indicated that epigenetic and evolutionary effects might be interlinked and Cadmium-induced changes to the epigenetic modification of the chromatin might be functionally associated with the evolutionary effects.  

      Other presentations in this session addressed mechanistically epigenetic effects, which are not limited to the exposed organisms but may also be observed in their offspring and, in some cases, even in multiple subsequent generations. Studies presented in the session included the effect of gamma radiation on Daphnia, where changes in DNA methylation levels were observed even in the subsequent unexposed generations (F3). The effects reported in this session, mediated by epigenetic and evolutionary mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, histone modification and genetic adaptation, include phenotypic changes in early life-stage development, embryotoxic effect effects, and even population level and dose-dependent effects. Overall, the research presented in this session highlights that many chemicals can have epigenetic and evolutionary effects, and new approaches are required to include such effects in risk assessment.

      This session, proposed by the EVOGENERATE Work Group and support by the OMICs Interest Group, continues to lead the debate on the development of new methods and model systems for the characterization of the epigenetic effects, hazard identification of epigenetic effects (both short- and long-term), and the integration of epigenetic data in ecological and human health risk assessment. These methodologies and model systems further provide scientific guidance to support optimized decision-making through a sustainable trade-off between the demand for specific chemicals and products with the conservation of natural resources. 

      Authors’ contact information:,, and

  • Integrated Approaches for Linking Chemical Contamination With Biological Effects
    Werner Brack, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ; Klara Hilscherova, Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX) Masaryk University; and Henner Hollert, RWTH Aachen University

    • The variety of chemicals found or released in the environment is continuously growing, with currently about 100 million known chemicals registered in the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) and tens of thousands of compounds which may be detected in environmental samples, many of which are unknown. Integrated biological and chemical approaches such as effect-directed analysis (EDA) are required to reduce the complexity of environmental mixtures and to identify drivers of mixture toxicity. Substantial progress has been achieved towards the goal of the identification of novel toxicants and to establish cause–effect relationships. Several interesting case studies were presented in this session involving five platform and seven poster presentations.

      A novel approach of chemical and toxicological profiling based on mobile passive sampling and comparison to large volume active sampling has been applied to the Danube river and was presented by Klara Hilscherova, RECETOX. Hilscherova applied a battery of passive sampling techniques together with a series of bioassays, getting complementary toxicity patterns in the different samplers. For most endpoints, toxic equivalents harvested by passive sampling were in a similar range as extracted by active sampling. Depending on the endpoints of concern, chemical analysis could further explain significant fractions of toxic equivalents. Taking the city of Novi Sad as a hot spot of contamination in the Danube river, Muhammad Arslan Hashmi from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, presented an EDA study unraveling the cause of endocrine disruption (estrogenicity, androgenicity, progestagenic effects) downstream of the discharge of untreated wastewater. Hashmi was able to isolate biological activity in few fractions and to quantitatively relate effects to a limited set of compounds, which were predominated by natural and some synthetic hormones.

      Matthias Muschket , UFZ,  presented on the ability to identify the cause of high anti-androgenic activity of water in a small stream, the Holtemme river in Germany. Unlike the Danube, the effect was caused by a xenobiotic fluorescent dye, which is continuously emitted via a wastewater treatment plant. The power of EDA-like approaches to identify unknown hazardous chemicals and mixture effects in surface waters was shown by Melis Muz, UFZ, to assess mutagenicity in two waterbodies, the Rhine and Mulde rivers. The assessments in the river Rhine found synergistic mixture effects between carboline alkaloids, and industrial aromatic amines were found to have a strong mutagenic effect in the River Mulde, which could be traced back to diaminophenazines emitted by the chemical industry at the industrial site of Bitterfeld through a wastewater treatment plant. The mixture effects in the river Rhine demonstrated that even compounds, which have a very low potency as individual chemicals, can be drivers of adverse effects. Finally, Dorian Bas, University of Amsterdam, provided results from a nationwide screening of herbicide risk to algae using an algal photosynthesis bioassay. Bas detected effects at one of the sampling sites and attributed this effect to the herbicide linuron, which is not included into the Water Framework Directive (WFD) priority pollutant list.

      The session highlighted the need for and the power of integrated biological and chemical approaches to identify drivers of toxicity in complex mixtures of contaminants as they are typically found in the environment. Although being one of the smaller sessions based on the number of submissions, there was a high degree of innovation, encouraging us to continue this discussion as part of the next SETAC Europe meeting. 

      Authors’ contact information:, and

  • Advances on the Assessment of Environmental Pollutants to Amphibians and Reptiles
    Isabel Lopes, University of Aveiro, and Peter Dohmen, BASF SE

    • Amphibian and reptile decline constitutes a global conservation problem that has been attributed to several environmental stressors (e.g., habitat degradation, diseases, invasive species, climate changes, chemical contamination) and to complex interactions among them. Much research has been carried out to establish a causal link between exposure to stressors and the observed effects at the population level, targeting appropriate risk assessments and conservation programs. However, many uncertainties and knowledge gaps still exist, including methodological approaches to assess effects, differential sensitivity among life-stages, relevance of different exposure routes (oral, dermal, aquatic, terrestrial) or linking laboratory with field data.

      The oral presentations in this session provided relevant insights in these topics but also indicated the need for more data.

      The presentation of Chantal Lanctôt, Central Queensland University, addressed the bioaccumulation in various frog tissues of a natural element, Selenium (Se), which has a narrow range between being an essential nutrient element or becoming a toxic element, and highlighted the relevance of different speciation of the Se molecules.

      Franziska Grözinger, BASF SE, focused on the possible risk of plant protection products in her presentation. Grözinger provided useful background information on amphibian biology and behavior, mainly related to the common frog (R. temporaria) and the common toad (B. bufo) in agricultural landscapes. Their intrinsic hiding behavior will result in significant reduction to pesticide spray exposure. This is in line with literature data,  showing laboratory results not observed in the field at compariable application rates.

      Manuel Ortiz Santaliestra, University of Koblenz-Landau, is an expert who is actively working for EFSA on amphibian and reptile risk assessment. He provided an extensive review on the toxicity of chemicals at different life stages and on a variety of species of amphibians and reptiles. Hatchlings and larvae were more sensitive than embryos and adults. Comparison between laboratory and mesocosm studies indicate that indirect effects occurring in the environment may increase uncertainties.

      Franz Streissl, EFSA, focused on the respective importance of oral and dermal exposure routes. His detailed evaluation indicated that both may have importance; however, the toxicity from the oral exposure is likely covered by data from other vertebrates, which is not the case for the dermal exposure route.

      The last presentation in this session by Lennart Weltje, BASF SE, summarized available evaluations indicating that aquatic toxicity is in principle covered by data on fish (and other standard aquatic species). His evaluation agreed with the statement by Streissl that the risk from oral exposure can be safely addressed by mammal and bird data and that the main open point to address is the dermal exposure of amphibians. He proposed a first attempt to assess potential toxicity to amphibians by using respective evaluations mainly of fish data.

      This session provided useful insight into the different aspects that should be considered when constructing a risk assessment for amphibians and reptiles. It also highlighted areas where more data and more research is urgently needed.

      Authors’ contact information: and

  • Input–Output and Hybrid Life Cycle Assessment for Supporting the Assessment of Production and Consumption Patterns
    Michele De Rosa, Århus University, and Jannick Schmidt, Aalborg University

    • Since 2003, SETAC and the broader life cycle assessment (LCA) community have dedicated increasing attention to hybrid LCA, merging process-based LCA with economic input–output (IO) databases. A hybrid analysis benefits both from the high level of completeness (no cut-off) from the IO data and from the high level of detail from the process-based data. One advantage IO databases, they cover the complete economy and data on economic product transactions and environmental extensions are consistently collected for all industries in the economy. Recently, new Multi-Regional IO (MRIO) databases have been constructed, which provide more details on products and industries with a better geographical coverage (e.g., EXIOBASE, the Global Input–Output database, and GTAP, the Global Trade Analysis Project), while largely improving the homogeneity of data. These developments have opened considerable opportunities to hybrid LCA. The session invited contributions on the integration of industry or process-based data into macroeconomic IO databases.

      Guillaume Majeau-Bettez, CIRAIG - Polytechnique Montréal, presented a streamlined hybridization technique, employed to hybridize single case studies, as well as the complete Ecoinvent database, the largest LCA database currently available, combining it with the multiregional IO database, EXIOBASE. Ecoinvent and EXIOBASE are highly compatible and complementary databases, they represent value chains spanning international borders in a multiregional manner and have a strong focus on the energy sectors and on resource use. Their ongoing hybridization should yield an optimally detailed and complete description of the technosphere, global insights into the issue of truncation in LCA practice in different sectors of interest, and a solid foundation for prospective environmental and economic analyses. This analysis of the complementarity between EXIOBASE and Ecoinvent is already yielding new insights for the optimal allocation of hybridization efforts in individual case study projects.

      Adrian Haas, ETH Zürich, showed how economic data from global multiregional input–output (GMRIO) databases, like EXIOBASE, can be used to increase the regional resolution on the inventory level. The results show that regionalized supply chains capture differences on the inventory level and consistently detect differences on the impact level. The regionalized inventory also allows applying a regionalized impact assessment method, e.g., impact of water use in a region with water scarcity or of land in a region with high carbon forests.

      Jannick Schmidt, 2.-0 LCA consultants, presented a concrete application of a hybrid multiregional database. The study is carried out in cooperation with the European Joint Research Center (JRC). The results include the calculation of consumption-based life cycle indicators for the EU28 member countries, and they demonstrate the advantages of a hybrid approach. Using the multiregional hybrid database EXIOBASE v3.8.8 (the previous presentations referred to the pure monetary version of EXIOBASE), Schmidt reported the total Green House Gas (GHG) emissions relating to EU28 consumption. The study showed that using the hybrid approach has advantages over process-based LCAs as well as pure monetary IO models. The hybrid approach revealed the importance of sectors that were not identified in previous similar studies using process-based LCA. The hybrid approach has advantages over the pure monetary approach in terms of the units of the model, i.e., the flows are accounted in physical units which is the same “language” as policies are formulated.

      Michele De Rosa, Arhus University, discussed the potential of BONSAI, an open source, hybrid LCA database currently under development. BONSAI aims to make reliable, unbiased sustainability information on products – “product footprints” – readily and freely available whenever and wherever needed to support product comparisons and decisions. The database will rely on cutting-edge software tools, such as cloud computing, text and data-mining and database management software, as well as on user input and validations. Similar to the way Wikipedia has linked text-based information, BONSAI intends to link data in a transparent, easily accessible and modifiable solution. The ultimate objective is to mainstream product footprints and to make results easily available to consumers.

      Vanessa Zeller, V. Zeller, Université Libre de Bruxelles, presented an application of an environmentally extended, multiregional inpu–output model for Belgium that shows a subnational resolution. The regional household expenditure for 2003, 2007 and 2010 indicates the consumption of 81 product groups, separated into Belgian products, European and non-European imports. The results showed that there were not significant variations in consumption-based impacts over different regions. Furthermore, improvements over time could not be clearly identified.

      Authors’ Contact Information: and 

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