Special Sessions

The Scientific Committee has scheduled a series of Special Sessions that put the overarching theme of the conference, “Environmental quality through transdisciplinary collaboration”, 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.

In several sessions this expertise is brought in by other scientific associations such as the International Society of Exposure Science (ISES) (session 8.01), the International Water Association (IWA) (session 8.03) and the Association of European Toxicologists and European Societies of Toxicology (EUROTOX) (session 8.06). With these collaborations, SETAC Europe will build bridges and overcome borders with other fields of expertise. Learn more here.

Wednesday 10 May, 08:30 am – 12:45 pm, Silver Hall (Level 0)

  • Georg Streck, European Commission – DG GROW, Belgium
  • Yuri Bruinen de Bruin, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy
  • Jos Bessems, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy
  • Joost Bakker, RIVM, the Netherlands

European Legislative frameworks, such as REACH, the Biocidal Product or the Plant Protection Products Regulation but also legislation on water, food and feed require risk assessments, while focusing to a varying degree on hazard vs. exposure. In general they focus on risks for which a relative good knowledge-base has been generated in the past. But do we have the right tools to identify and to react to emerging hazards and risks? This special session tackles this question in two parts, each consisting of four key presentations each followed by a podium discussion.

Part I – The role of Exposure Science for identifying early warnings on new and emerging risks of chemicals (jointly organised between the International Society of Exposure Science (ISES) and SETAC):

Many initiatives have been undertaken to design mechanisms to identify new and emerging risks of chemicals. Examples are the setting up of EFSA’s Emerging Risk Unit, the project on Towards a Non-Toxic Environment during which a EU-wide Early Alert System has been proposed, the development of RIVM’s NERCs system and the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network. In general, it was found that such systems all contain similar building blocks ranging from the picking up of signals related to observed effects, to evaluating and strengthening the signals, until prioritisation of risks and follow-up actions. During the prioritization of signals many cases exist where situations cannot be given an appropriate score due to the lack of information. This part of the session aims to discuss options on how to:

  1. come to an effective and efficient procedure for the evaluation of signals and identifying NERCs;
  2. deal with data gaps and uncertainty in the NERC assessment;
  3. modify existing exposure and risk assessment procedures by incorporating additional and more specific end-points.

Part II – Identifying emerging hazards – improving hazard assessments:>

Knowledge in (eco-)toxicology is evolving quickly. Regulatory authorities and policy makers are striving to incorporate new knowledge into the regulatory assessment, while balancing needs and possibilities. This is a challenging process, which necessitates the input from the scientific community. This part of the session aims to discuss the following questions:

  1. Are there gaps in the assessment of chemical substances? Are we lacking suitable methods for specific toxicological endpoints? Which new approaches should be prioritised for further research?
  2. Testing of chemicals can be cost-intensive. Are there methods which help to reduce costs while ensuring a high protection level?
  3. What is the right strategy to identify and tackle emerging hazards/risks? How can the knowledge exchange between the research community and regulators be strengthened?


  • 08:30 am    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 08:35 am    WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network – new and emerging risks (Richard Brown, World Health Organization, Switzerland)
  • 08:50 am    A study preparing for a strategy for a non-toxic environment, according to the 7th Environmental Action Programme of the European Parliament and of the Council (Urban Boije af Gennäs, European Commission – DG Environment, Belgium)
  • 09:05 am    Identification, prioritization and evaluation of potential New Emerging Risk of Chemicals (NERCs) for the environment (Joost Bakker, RIVM, the Netherlands)
  • 09:20 am    Establishment of the European Exposure Strategy 2025: Common interests of SETAC Europe and ISES Europe for picking up, sharing and communicating signals (Yuri Bruinen de Bruin, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy)
  • 09:35 am    Panel discussion
  • 10:15 am    Coffee break and poster viewing
  • 11:00 am    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 11:05 am    New approaches in regulatory science (Derek Knight, ECHA, Finland)
  • 11:20 am    Industry perspective on new developments and gaps in hazard and risk assessment (Stuart Marshall, Independent consultant, UK)
  • 11:35 am    Hazard assessment methods in ecotoxicology: present and future (José Tarazona, EFSA, Italy)
  • 11:50 am    Mechanism-based toxicity testing and risk assessment: the EU-ToxRisk strategy (Bob van de Water, Leiden University, the Netherlands)
  • 12:05 pm    Panel discussion
  • 12:45 pm    End

Monday 08 May, 08:30 am – 10:15 am, The Arc (Level +3)

  • Colin Janssen, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Lora Fleming, University of Exeter Medical School, UK
  • Jan Mees, Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Belgium

The marine environment contributes significantly to human health through the provision and quality of the air that we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and in offering health-enhancing economic and recreational opportunities. At the same time, the marine environment is under pressure from human activities. Evaluation of the impacts on both marine ecosystems themselves and on human health, have largely been undertaken as separate activities. Hence, our knowledge of the relationships between the marine environment and human health is limited and still relatively unexplored.

To address these knowledge gaps, research in this new field termed ‘Oceans and Human Health (OHH)’ must be directed at elucidating key environmental processes, and providing a predictive capability for both biotic and abiotic environmental influences on human health and well-being. The establishment and implementation of this type of integrated research will ultimately allow us to:

  • improve our understanding of the potential public health benefits from marine and coastal ecosystems;
  • reduce the burden of human disease linked with marine environmental causes; and
  • anticipate new threats to public health before they become serious.

During the last decade, there has been increasing research interest and investment in multi-disciplinary Oceans and Human Health research programmes in the USA. In Europe, however, there has been considerably less activity in this area. The European Marine Board (EMB) has recently stressed the urgent need for more research in this field and for the development of an oceans and human health research framework (Moore et al, 2013). Although it is clear that research issues such as wastewater, nutrient supply/eutrophication, pollutants and acidification, HAB toxins and pathogens are in line with SETAC topics, the novelty trans-disciplinary nature of the session is that it will link these typical topics with ecosystem health (e.g. services) and human health issues.

This SETAC Special Session aims to bring together academic scientists, industry representatives and regulators to (1) provide – through overviews/reviews presented by invited speakers – an overview of the current state of the science on important topics in the OHH field and (2) discuss – through an extended discussion slot – new ways forward.


  • 08:30 am – Introduction: Oceans and Human Health? What and what’s new? (Jan Mees, Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Belgium)
  • 08:35 am – The ocean and human health: a European perspective on an emerging integrated meta-discipline (Niall McDonough, European Marine Board, Belgium)
  • 08:50 am – Red tides, Aerosols and Human Health (Lora Fleming, University of Exeter Medical School, UK)
  • 09:05 am – Microbial pollution, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and Surfers (Anne Leonard, University of Exeter Medical School, UK)
  • 09:20 am – Blue Gym/Blue Health! (Lora Fleming, University of Exeter Medical School, UK)
  • 09:35 am – Marine biogenic chemicals, cell signaling and human health (Michael Moore, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth University and ECEHH University of Exeter medical School, UK)
  • 09:50 am – Occurrence and effects of bio-active substances in marine aerosols (Emmanuel Van Acker, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • 10:00 am – Frequent multi-toxin (HAB) exposure through seafood consumption: an under-estimated risk to human health? (Maarten De Rijcke, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • 10:10 am – Discussion
  • 10:15 am – End

Tuesday 09 May, 08:30 am – 12:45 pm, The Arc (Level +3)

  • Elke Zimmer, Ibacon, Germany
  • Ingmar Nopens, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Todd Gouin, Unilever, UK
  • Kris Villez, Eawag, Switzerland

Within SETAC the advisory group MEMORISK deals with mechanistic modelling of effects at the level of the individual, the population, community and, finally, the ecosystem. Within the International Water Association (IWA), a specialist group on Modelling and Integrated Assessment (MIA) brings together global specialists in the field of (integrated) modelling in the broad sense related to water (sewer, treatment, river quality, drinking water,…). Next to building models, they also study modelling tools and methodologies and the integration also intends to seek for interdisciplinary collaboration. With this in mind, establishing the connection between both groups is a natural thing to strive for. Therefore, the main objective of this joint session is to bring together people (academics, government, consultants, industry) from both organizations (that are otherwise very unlikely to meet) to discuss about common grounds and possible synergies. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an obvious starting point here as it calls for Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWS), in which integrated mechanistic modeling of fate and effects of chemicals can play a prominent role.


*Coupling fate to effects modeling of chemicals

  • What are the missing links to couple the expertise of both groups? For example, given that water treatment plants effluents are a major point source for receiving waters, can both studied systems be connected?
  • Mechanistic modelling of biodegradation of specific compounds in municipal and industrial treatment plants and receiving waters, including micropollutants

*Differences/similarities in modelling approaches between SETAC and IWA

  • Type of models, their implementation, data requirements and model outputs.
  • Modelling methods, including techniques for optimization, sensitivity analysis, uncertainty analysis, risk assessment, as well as modelling protocols that bind these techniques together
  • Approaches for implementing mechanistic modeling in environmental policy and decision making at the regulatory level (discussing success stories, failures, current developments)



  • 08:30 am   Overview of major topics from SETAC & IWA (session chairs)

AI – IWA Modelling – Summary of State-of-the-Art with respect to the urban drainage and water treatment

  • 08:50 am   Developments in Integrated Urban Drainage (Luca Vezzaro, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
  • 09:00 am   Developments in Wastewater Treatment (Ingmar Nopens, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • 09:10 am    Developments in Drinking Water Treatment (Bram Martijn, PWN Technologies, the Netherlands)
  • 09:20 am   Discussion

AII – SETAC – Summary of state-of-the-art tools for exposure and chemical risk assessment

  • 09:25 am    State-of-the-art tools for exposure and chemical risk assessment (Dik Van de Meent, Independent consultant, the Netherlands)
  • 09:35 am    Mechanistic effect models for ecological risk assessment: where next? (Virginie Ducrot, Bayer CropScience AG, Germany)
  • 09:45 am    Discussion

AIII – Receiving Water Quality Impacts – Developments and Success Stories

  • 09:50 am    Integrating treatment facility and river network information to model spatially-explicit environmental concentrations of down-the-drain substances: iSTREEM (Christopher Holmes, Waterborne Environmental, Inc., USA)
  • 10:00 am   Cost-Effective and Integrated Optimisation of the Urban Wastewater System Eindhoven (Ingmar Nopens, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • 10:10 am    Discussion
  • 10:15 am    Coffee break and poster viewing


  • 11:00 am    Introduction (session chairs)

BI – Population/Effects/Food Web Modelling

  • 11:05 am    Ecological modelling can link chemical exposure to effects on the population dynamics of aquatic invertebrate species for major European rivers (Andreas Focks, Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands)
  • 11:15 am    Modelling of population dynamics, food web and biostatistics (Elise Billoir, Université de Lorraine, France)

BII – Chemical Risk Assessment

  • 11:25 am    ChimERA: integrating fate and effect modelling (Karel Viaene, Arche Consulting, Belgium)
  • 11:35 am    Discussion

BIII – Dealing with Uncertainties in Models and Assessments

  • 11:40 am    Balancing complexity and uncertainty in model-based estimation of micropollutant fluxes in integrated urban drainage-wastewater systems (Luca Vezzaro, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
  • 11:50 am    How certain are we about uncertainty of modelling approaches in environmental risk assessment? (Thomas Preuss, Bayer CropScience AG, Germany)
  • 12:00 pm    Discussion

BIV – Communication/Documentation of Models and their role in Regulation

  • 12:05 pm    Communication Approaches to implement mechanistic modelling in decision making (Frederik Verdonck, Arche Consulting, Belgium)
  • 12:15 pm    Use of TK/TD models in pesticide risk assessment – Current situation and possible improvements (Véronique Poulsen, ANSES, France)

BV – Discussion and Forging Collaboration

  • 12:25 pm    Discussion and Forging Collaboration (session chairs)
  • 12:45 pm    End

Monday 08 May, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, The Arc (Level +3)

  • Marc Berntssen, NIFES, Norway
  • Ketil Hylland, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Craig Robinson, Marine Scotland Science, UK

The marine environment is multifactorial and marine organisms are exposed a multitude of potential stressors, including chemicals. Fisheries and aquaculture have large benefits to society, but both activities also strongly affect marine ecosystems. The environmental consequences of either are linked to chemicals in marine ecosystems, albeit in different ways. For fisheries there is an uncertainty as to whether chemicals may have an additional effect on already overfished fish populations. In addition, there is a concern that fishing practices such as trawling will mobilise sediment-associated contaminants. The use of therapeutic agents, such as antibiotics and de-lousing agents, is an integral part of modern aquaculture, potentially affecting both the farmed fish and the surrounding environment. In addition, intended and unintended residue chemicals in aquafeeds can affect both farmed fish and the environment. There are therefore clear ecotoxicological interests in relation to both fisheries and aquaculture. The aim of this session is to discuss the relevance of ecotoxicology in relation to fisheries and aquaculture. Experts from different research areas will be invited to present their perspective.


  • 11:00 am    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 11:05 am    Controlling the effect of aquaculture on the environment (Øyvind Oaland, Marine Harvest Group, Norway)
  • 11:25 am    The use of aquaculture medicines to control sea lice should not cost the earth (Adam Lillicrap, NIVA, Norway)
  • 11:45 am    Emerging contaminants and toxins in aquaculture: how modern analytical tools may aid to ensure food and environmental safety (Lynn Vanhaecke, Ghent University, Belgium)
  • 12:05 pm    Contaminant control and development in farmed salmon- industry data (Øyvind Oaland, Marine Harvest Group, Norway)
  • 12:25 pm    Sex steroids in common mussels: where do they come from and what risk do they pose to consumers? (Ioanna Katsiadaki, CEFAS, UK)
  • 12:45 pm    Lunch and poster viewing
  • 2:15 pm    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 2:20 pm    Do fisheries practices increase contaminant mobilisation from sediments? (Ian Allan, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Norway)
  • 2:40 pm    Environmental contaminants in wild fish from the North East Atlantic (Amund Maage, NIFES, Norway)
  • 3:00 pm    Parameters influencing the levels of emerging contaminants is seafood from estuaries and open seas (Michael Kotterman, IMARES, The Netherlands)
  • 3:20 pm    Has tributyltin contamination reduced catches of the brown shrimp Crangon crangon? (Kris Cooreman, Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO), Belgium)
  • 3:40 pm    Discussion
  • 4:00 pm    End

Tuesday 09 May, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Meeting Studio 311 & 312 (Level +3)

  • Gertie Arts, Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands
  • Elisabeth Maria Gross, University of Lorraine, France
  • Sabine Apitz, SEA Environmental Decisions Ltd, UK
  • Lorraine Maltby, The University of Sheffield, UK

Ecosystems provide multiple services for humans, yet they are exposed to multiple stressors, such as habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation and pollution, acting at various spatio-temporal scales, affecting all levels of biological organization, from individuals to populations and communities. Ecosystem functioning is strongly dependent on plants, which are at the base of food webs and fundamental in maintaining biogeochemical cycles. Both ecology and ecotoxicology aim to define good indicators to assess direct and indirect effects of environmental change, disturbances or stressors at the population, community, ecosystem, and landscape level.

The session begins by discussing methods used in plant ecology and ecotoxicology to measure effects of chemicals and other stress factors on plants. With examples from aquatic and terrestrial plant ecology, and by comparing undisturbed and highly impacted ecosystems, different measures and proxies used in both disciplines will be discussed. Our aim is to identify scientifically sound and economically effective indicators for ecosystem functioning and ecological risk assessment. The session goes on to explore how close we are to adopting an ecosystem services approach, increasingly the focus of environmental policy, to assessing and managing environmental risk. Do we have sufficient understanding to assess, predict and manage the effects of anthropogenic activities on ecosystem service delivery in multifunctional landscapes that are often exposed to multiple pressures? Are the monitoring, regulatory and decision frameworks that have developed over decades fit for purpose as we seek to apply this evolving knowledge? What are the key knowledge gaps that we need to address and what tools are required to address this?


  • 11:00 am    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 11:05 am    Bridging between ecology and ecotoxicology: what are suitable endpoints or response variables to detect effects on plants at different ecological levels? (Elisabeth Maria Gross, University of Lorraine, France) 
  • 11:25 am    The performance of plant individuals, populations and species (Mark van Kleunen, University of Konstanz, Germany)
  • 11:45 pm    Measuring changes in aquatic ecosystems after disturbance by pollution or invasion of alien plants (Iris Stiers, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium)
  • 12:05 pm    What can ecosystem services and resilience considerations add to pesticide regulations and the sustainability of agriculture? (Annik Dollacker, Bayer CropScience AG, Germany)
  • 12:25 pm    Panel discussion
  • 12:45 pm    Lunch and poster viewing
  • 2:15 pm       Introduction (session chairs)
  • 2:20 pm      Ecosystem services from a regulatory/risk management prospective (Karin Nienstedt, European Commission, Belgium)
  • 2:40 pm     Chemicals: Assessment of Risks to Ecosystem Services (CARES). Where are we now and where are we going? (Lorraine Maltby, The University of Sheffield, UK)
  • 3:00 pm     Ecological production functions: key attributes and challenges of implementation (Lawrence Kapustka, LK Consultancy, Canada)
  • 3:20 pm     Ecosystem Services in Retrospective Risk Assessment, Remediation and Restoration: State of the Practice (Sabine Elisabeth Apitz, SEA Environmental Decisions Ltd, UK)
  • 3:40 pm     Panel discussion
  • 4:00 pm     End

Monday 08 May, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Silver Hall (Level 0)

  • Dries Knapen, University of Antwerp, Belgium
  • Dominique Lison, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium
  • Bruno Campos, IDAEA-CSIC, Spain
  • Maurice Whelan, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy

Recent advances in environmental toxicology and the use of new platforms, such as physiological measurements, genome wide information and metabolomics are reducing the gap between environmental risk assessment and human health assessment. The concepts, methods and procedures currently used for human and ecological risk assessment of chemicals show distinct differences but also some similarities. For example, typical human toxicology tools (e.g. in vitro cell lines) are routinely used in ecotoxicology and vice versa (e.g. zebrafish embryo as a model for exploring human toxicity). These practices are anticipated to change substantially over the next few decades. The roadmaps for these changes are expected to be different for ecological (e.g. trying to achieve increased environmental realism) and human health (e.g. paradigm shift from hazard-driven to exposure-driven processes) risk assessments, although the ultimate goal is similar, i.e. increasing the level of protection for both humans and the environment.

This session will bring together ecotoxicologists and toxicologists to connect and to stimulate interaction between these two fields, and to explore possibilities for synergies in chemical risk assessment. The session will focus on a number of examples highly relevant to both toxicology and ecotoxicology: mixture toxicity, endocrine disrupting compounds, pathway approaches to understanding toxicity, and the zebrafish as a model species. The aim is to identify common issues and approaches, but also to discuss and understand the differences (e.g., in terminology and threshold definitions). These topics cover various interests of the typical SETAC and EUROTOX attendance. This session could therefore serve as a starting point for further collaboration between these two societies.


Part I: Contemporary toxicological challenges

  • 11:00 am    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 11:05 am    Harmonisation of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Combined Exposure to Multiple Chemicals: A Food Safety Perspective (Christer Hogstrand, Kings College London, United Kingdom)
  • 11:25 am    Ecological risk assessment of chemical mixtures (Ad Ragas, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands)
  • 11:45 am    Endocrine disruption: A toxicologist’s perspective (Sharon Munn, European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy)
  • 12:05 pm    Endocrine disruption: An ecotoxicologist’s perspective (James Wheeler, Dow AgroSciences, UK)
  • 12:25 pm    Panel discussion
  • 12:45 pm    Lunch and poster viewing

Part II: Models and frameworks

  • 2:15 pm    Introduction (session chairs)
  • 2:20 pm    From Adverse Outcome Pathways to chemical risk assessment (Alan Boobis, Imperial College London, UK)
  • 2:40 pm    Application of Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) in Human Health and Ecotoxicology – Capturing Divergent Consequences of Conserved Molecular Initiating Events via AOP Networks (Daniel Villeneuve, USEPA, USA)
  • 3:00 pm    The zebrafish embryo model for human risk assessment: a SWOT analysis (Steven Van Cruchten, University of Antwerp, Belgium)
  • 3:20 pm    The fish embryo model for the environmental assessment of chemicals (Marc Leonard, L’Oreal, France)
  • 3:40 pm    Panel discussion
  • 4:00 pm    End

Thursday 11 May, 08:35 am – 10:15 am, The Arc (Level +3)

  • Paul van den Brink, Alterra and Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands

The SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Workshop was held at the SETAC Europe annual meeting in Barcelona, May 2015. The project aimed to collect and prioritize the most important future research questions as recognized by environmental scientists in Europe working in government, academia and business. The results of this project contribute to the mission of SETAC to achieve Environmental Quality Through Science®.

The aim of this session is to present the results of this workshop and to look further into the main questions and research needs. It will be followed up by a stakeholder meeting for invitees only.


  • 08:30 am – Introduction to the programme and questions on vulnerability, propagation of effects, multiple stressors and effect modelling (Paul van den Brink, Alterra and Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands)
  • 09:00 am – Research needs for high-throughput assessment of individual contaminants and their mixtures, both historical and emerging, and sustainable molecular design and alternatives analysis of chemical products (Bryan Brooks, Baylor University, USA)
  • 09:20 am – Prioritisation and detection of existing and emerging environmental contaminants (Alistair Boxall, University of York, UK)
  • 09:40 am – Predicting stressor effects on ecosystems and their services in a changing world: implications for risk communication, risk management and restoration (Lorraine Maltby, The University of Sheffield, UK)
  • 10:00 am – Discussion on way forward
  • 10:15 am – End