Special Sessions

The Scientific Committee has scheduled a series of Special Sessions that put the overarching theme of the conference, “Responsible and Innovative Research for Environmental Quality”, into practice. The key to successful and efficient environmental quality management will hinge upon transdisciplinary collaboration between environmental and human toxicologists, environmental chemists, and scientists and policy-makers from a diversity of disciplines, such as conservation biology, ecology, human health, aquaculture, sociology, law, and economy.

Thursday, 17 May | 8:30a.m.–10:05 a.m. | Session Room Q

  • Jan Koschorreck, UBA, Germany
  • Sara Danielsson, The Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden

Environmental specimen banks (ESBs) systematically store high quality samples from the environment and human populations in support of chemicals management and innovative research for a better environmental quality. ESBs are operated by environment agencies as part of the national long-term environmental research infrastructure or by environmental research institutes. There is a large potential to make better use of ESB samples in research and chemicals regulation.

ESB sampling is already ongoing for up to 50 years at regular intervals in the freshwater, marine and/or the terrestrial compartment. Some ESBs also sample human populations. ESB operations are guided by strict protocols for sampling, processing and archiving. The samples are stored at low or ultra-low temperatures in the archives which provides for their long-term biological and chemical integrity.

There are around 30 ESBs in the world, of which around 20 are located in Europe. The specimens are used to monitor the quality of the environment and the efficacy of regulatory efforts to control known hazardous substances like metals, PAHs, PBDEs, dioxins and other organochlorines. However, the main objective of ESBs is retrospective analysis of chemicals of emerging concern (CECs): ESB samples allow for spatio-temporal analysis of substances which were unknown, not known to be hazardous or not analytically detectable at the time of sampling. Recent examples are new PFAS, new flame retardants, chlorinated paraffins, nanomaterials and pharmaceuticals.

The systematic use of high quality ESB data and samples has the potential to significantly increase our understanding of the fate of regulated and non-regulated contaminants in the environment. ESB data are already being used to some extent to identify persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention and potential persistent and bioaccumulative compounds in REACH legislation. However, consistent and interdisciplinary approaches that make better use of high quality ESB samples can overcome the reluctant use of monitoring data in chemicals risk assessment.

The application of cutting edge analytical methods to ESB samples is a win-win situation for the value of ESB samples and our understanding of the quality of the environment. For example, Non-Target Screening is a promising tool that will add significant data on the temporal occurrence of chemicals in ecosystems. Some archived samples are now also used for barcoding and meta-barcoding approaches of environmental eDNA revealing temporal changes in biodiversity and offering interdisciplinary links to this research area. Furthermore, banked environmental and human samples can be incentives for interdisciplinary and integrated exposure assessments.

This ESB session has the aim to discuss interdisciplinary applications for ESB samples and to initiate collaborations with environmental scientists and regulators in the field of long-term environmental quality monitoring.


8:30 a.m. Introduction
8:35 a.m. Monitoring of POPs in the Swedish aquatic ecosystem and in human milk (Elisabeth Nyberg, The Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden)
8:50 a.m. Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? Spatial and temporal trends for PBDE, Dechlorane Plus and alternative flame retardants in samples of the German environmental specimen bank (Annekatrin Dreyer, Eurofins GfA GmbH, Germany)
9:05 a.m. New Uses of Archived Specimens from the U.S.A. NIST Marine Environmental Specimen Bank (Rebecca Pugh, National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA)
9:20 a.m. Monitoring of the indoor environment of ESB laboratories with selected target and non-target screening methods (Pernilla Bohlin Nizzetto, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Norway)
9:35 a.m. DNA banking and its relevance for biodiversity research (Jonas Astrin, Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, Germany)
9:50 a.m. Discussion on environmental specimen banking in research and regulation
10:05 a.m. End

Wednesday 16 May | 8:30 a.m.–10:05 a.m. | Session Room Q

  • Maria Cristina Fossi, University of Siena, Italy
  • Gaetano Leone, UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, Greece
  • Francesco Degli Innocenti, Novamont S.p.A., Italy

This special session fits in the general scope of the SETAC Rome meeting (“Responsible and Innovative Research for Environmental Quality”) and deals with the general problem of plastic litter, but with particular regard the Mediterranean area where the meeting will be held, with a special focus on a multi-stakeholders approach. The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most affected areas by marine litter in the world. Plastics and other polymer materials are the most common types of marine litter, representing some 80% of litter found. As larger pieces of plastic debris fragment into smaller pieces, the abundance of microplastics (plastic fragments smaller than 5 mm) in marine habitats increases; 115.000-1.050.000 particles/km2 are estimated to float in the Mediterranean Sea (Fossi et al 2012; UNEP/MAP, 2015; Suaria et al., 2017). The marine litter problem in the Mediterranean is exacerbated by the basin’s limited exchanges with other oceans, highly developed coastal tourism, densely populated coasts, busy offshore waters (with 30% of the world’s maritime traffic), waste disposal sites often located close to the coast; high temperatures accelerating litter degradation into secondary products that are difficult to collect or treat; and inputs of litter from very urbanized areas and large rivers. Marine litter and in particular floating plastic have been found in the Mediterranean Sea in comparable quantities to those found in the five oceanic garbage patches. In this respect, recent studies based on global models have proposed the Mediterranean Sea as the sixth greatest accumulation zone for marine litter. Marine litter and in particular plastic fragments and microplastics’ impact on marine biota is mainly attributed to plastic ingestion: a number of plastic additives have been found in considerable concentrations in endangered marine mammals. Bigger marine litter items, like plastic bags, are a proven threat for sea turtles and especially for the endangered species Caretta caretta.

Despite the recent advances made within the framework of the Barcelona Convention Regional Plan for Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Descriptor 10), there is still a long way ahead to tackle marine litter in the Mediterranean and reduce the risks posed to Mediterranean marine wildlife. In line with the urgent need to act at a regional level, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (all Mediterranean riparian countries and the EU) agreed on a Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean. The regional plan, which is the first legally binding regional instrument, aims to minimize marine litter presence and its impacts in the Mediterranean. It also specifies in its Article 18 that its implementation necessitates cooperation among regional partners and actors.

This special session envisages to showcase the Mediterranean answer to the global problem of marine litter and as such share experience on how Academy, Industry, Governance actors and different key regional stakeholders in their various capacities can work together in a coordinated manner to address Mediterranean marine litter management.


8:30 a.m. Introduction
8:35 a.m. Harmful effects of plastic litter on Mediterranean Biodiversity: what and what’s new? (Maria Cristina Fossi, University of Siena, Italy)
8:47 a.m. Impact of marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea: monitoring and specific reduction measures within MSFD (Francois Galgani, Ifremer, France)
8:57 a.m. Addressing the growing threat of marine litter: NGOs essential role in strengthening the science-policy-society interface (Thomie Vlachogianni, Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE), Greece)
9:11 a.m. Biodegradable plastics: potential application in aquaculture and other applications at high risk of dispersion (Francesco Degli Innocenti, Novamont S.p.A., Italy)
9:23 a.m. Marine Litter Governance in the Mediterranean through the implementation of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean (Gaetano Leone, UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, Greece)
9:35 a.m. Science and awareness: a Mediterranean Connection Against Marine Litter. First Results of the Commitment Presented at UN Ocean Conference (Giorgio Zampetti, Legambiente, Italy)
9:47 a.m. Discussion
9:57 a.m. Final Remarks (Gaetano Leone, UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan, Greece)
10:05 a.m. End

May 14, 2018 | 1:55 p.m.- 3:30 p.m. | Session Room Q

  • Nico van den Brink, Wageningen University, Netherlands
  • Borja Heredia, UNEP/CMS, Germany
  • Rafael Mateo, IREC – CSIC – UCLM, Spain
  • Richard Shore, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK

Several migratory bird species are iconic species that inspire people but often also act as indicators for environmental health. Worldwide, populations of migratory birds are under pressure, showing declines in populations and sometimes they are even endangered. Within the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (http://www.cms.int/), the Avian Species Team works on the assessment of the status of populations of (endangered) migratory bird species, identifying potential threats to those species and improving their (international) management. Management and conservation of migratory bird species is complex, due to the need to address a range of threats that may act across part or all of entire flyways which cross borders and multiple diverse habitats. Within the UN Avian Species Team there is more and more concern that chemicals affect migratory bird species, and that this issue demands specific attention. However, obtaining clear evidence of pollution-mediated effects is very complicated due to the long range movements of migratory species, complex exposure scenarios to different classes of compounds in different regions along migration routes, and the logistics of working across multiple countries. Furthermore, this UN-team does not have the experience neither the capacity to fully explore the potential threats that chemicals may pose to migratory species. Recently, the Preventing Poisoning Working Group of the UN-Avian Species Team made a first inventory of potential chemical risks to migratory birds along their migration flyways and concluded that these included pesticides, rodenticides, pharmaceuticals, lead ammunition and fishing weights and deliberate poisoning. For further development of this inventory, and to assess actual risks of chemicals, the UN-Avian Species Team reached out to the Wildlife Toxicology Interest Group (SETAC world) to gain the experience needed for this process.

Rationale for a session at this meeting:

  • The issue is closely related to the central theme of the conference “Responsible and Innovative Research for Environmental Quality” since this complex issue can only be solved by applying new and innovative tools and concepts. This is essential for e.g. non-destructive collection of sampling, back tracing of exposure routes (e.g. by application of stable isotopes or other signals).
  • This issue is highly connected to the Mediterranean Sea and its bordering countries since there are several areas where migratory birds stay during the winter while several important migratory fly ways cross the Mediterranean e.g. via Israel, Spain and Italy.
  • This topic will likely need the involvement of a wider part of the SETAC community. This would also bring SETAC in close connection with an important Directive of the UN, expanding the potential outreach of SETAC.


1:55 p.m. Introduction (session chairs)
2:00 p.m. CMS talk setting the scene for the CMS working group on poisoning and outlining CMS needs in terms of scientific input from SETAC (Borja Heredia, UNEP/CMS, Germany)
2:15 p.m. Main scientific gaps in knowledge of risk from pesticides to [migratory] wildlife globally, and potential contribution of WTIG to CMS questions (Christine Bishop, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada) – POSTER SPOTLIGHT MO456
2:20 p.m. Main scientific gaps in knowledge of risk from rodenticides to [migratory] wildlife globally, and potential contribution of WTIG to CMS questions (Philippe Berny, VetAgro Sup, France) – POSTER SPOTLIGHT MO457
2:25 p.m. Main scientific gaps in knowledge of risk from Pb ammunition and shot to [migratory] wildlife globally, and potential contribution of WTIG to CMS questions (Ruth Cromie, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, UK) – POSTER SPOTLIGHT MO458
2:30 p.m. Main scientific gaps on knowledge of NSAIDs [migratory] wildlife globally, and potential contribution of WTIG to CMS questions (Mark Taggart, University of the Highlands and Islands, UK) – POSTER SPOTLIGHT MO459
2:35 p.m. Main scientific gaps on knowledge of deliberate poisoning to [migratory] wildlife globally (Martin Odino, Independent Environmental Services Professional, Kenya) – POSTER SPOTLIGHT MO460
2:40 p.m. Questions and discussion
2:50 p.m. Regulatory view describing the extent to which [if any] regulation takes into account neighbouring country/regional use of compounds, accounts for how local use might affect migratory species, how field data on migratory species might feed into regulatory processes (Rachel Sharp, EFSA, Italy & Anna Mazzolini, ECHA, Finland)
3:10 p.m. Panel discussion with audience and presenters focusing on how SETAC can interact with CMS usefully to provide scientific evidence and expertise
3:30 p.m. End

Monday 14 May | 8:30 a.m.–10:05 a.m. | Session Room Q

  • Lucia Toniolo, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
  • Rocco Mazzeo, University of Bologna, Italy

The contribution of chemistry and material science to the knowledge, conservation and monitoring of Cultural Heritage is relevant and well established in the scientific community. Artefacts and polychrome artefacts, historical buildings and archaeological heritage are complex material systems subjected to continuous stress deriving from aggressive environmental conditions and climate change with increasing kinetic of deterioration processes. The conservation and enhancement and exploitation of the huge world heritage deserves attention and needs innovative materials and technical solutions, besides a great research effort for the development of a new consciousness of the society. Climate change and pollution threats are difficult to face and control, while new nanomaterials are proposed and used in different areas, without an appropriate set-up and evaluation of the connected risks. The European Commission is aware of the importance of this Societal Challenge and of the determinant impact of Cultural Heritage for the formation and development of the European citizenship. The Special Session would like to present the main responses given by the research in Europe with an overview of the main problems and innovation opportunities in the field of safeguard of Cultural properties. The new European infrastructure E-RIHS (Research Infrastructure Heritage Science), under the Italian guidance and leadership, will be presented in details during the session.


8:30 a.m. Introduction
8:35 a.m. Cultural Heritage and Climate Change: impact and adaptation (Cristina Sabbioni, CNR-ISAC -Istituto di Scienze dell’Atmosfera e del Clima, Italy)
9:05 a.m. Nanotechnologies for the conservation and connected risks (Maria Mosquera, University of Cadiz, Spain)
9:35 a.m. Towards the European Research Infrastructure in Heritage Science: E-RIHS (Luca Pezzati, CNR-Istituto Nazionale di Ottica, Italy)
9:55 a.m. Discussion & Conclusions
10:05 a.m. End

Tuesday 15 May | 8:30a.m.–3:30 a.m. | Session Room Q

  • Werner Brack, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Germany
  • Rolf Altenburger, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Germany
  • Jos van Gils, Deltares, Netherlands
  • John Munthe, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Sweden

High quality freshwater resources are a key requirement for sustainable development in Europe, safe drinking water production and for the protection of aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity, including downstream transitional and marine waters. While the Water Framework Directive defines a holistic ecological status to monitor and assess the quality of aquatic ecosystems, chemical status is defined in a very traditional way focusing on 45 so-called Priority Pollutants. Such regulatory approach based on maximum concentrations of individual substances in receiving water, sediments or biota may have advantages for commonly occurring pollutants with well-known toxicological properties but may have disadvantages concerning all the non-regulated (emerging) pollutants, the unknown substances, the unknown toxicological effects as well as any combination effect of mixtures. At the same time, compliance monitoring for all the priority pollutants may not represent the most efficient environmental management strategy considering occurrence of many substances frequently below the detection limits. A recent study in the process towards a non-toxic environment led by the European Commission highlights several environmental management issues and recommendations, i.e.,

  • Improved identification and tracking of all substances meeting the criteria for SVHCs and including very persistent substances as well as substances of concern meeting other endpoints not yet adequately addressed, e.g., endocrine disrupters, neurotoxins, immunotoxins, and developmental toxins.
  • Additional hazard identification and risk assessment processes that allow for more rapid screening and identification of potential chemicals of concern and that can cope more efficiently with the huge numbers of existing chemicals as well as the ever increasing numbers of new chemicals being invented and placed on the market;

Enormous scientific and technological progress has been achieved that leaves the restriction of chemical status assessment to consideration of only a few chemicals unnecessary. Effect-based and multi- and non-target chemical screening and European databases open new horizons for holistic monitoring. Pattern analysis offers scope to identify mixtures of concern related to specific sources and effects. New experimental and multivariate approaches could help to