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Conference report: SETAC Europe 2015

May 18th, 2015

The Society of Environmental Toxicity and Chemistry

The Society of Environmental Toxicity and Chemistry (SETAC) held its annual conference from May 3rd to May 7th. There were about 2500 delegates attending a wide range of sessions.

Of particular note was session on substances that are difficult to risk assess. The session was initiated by European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) staff, and Peter Fisk co-chaired the session with ECHA and a representative of Eurometaux.

Approaches to risk management

PFA’s particular strength on this issue is expertise on how to risk assess substances that are termed ‘UVCB’ (unknown or variable composition, or biological materials) under REACH, and particularly those that are natural in origin. There were several presentations on this theme, from a variety of speakers from industry, as well as a poster session. Peter Fisk made a platform presentation, and PFA’s Oliver Warwick presented a poster in the same session, focussing on approaches to risk management of PBT substances.

Not for the first time, one area of strong contention was bioaccumulation. The authorities continue to give precedence to laboratory bioconcentration factors over a wider range of weight of evidence. Mathematical modelling, including some novel work done at PFA, shows how the environment is dynamic, so pseudo ‘steady state’ metrics such as BCF cannot be relied upon.

Sharing and debating ideas

We enjoyed the chance to debate with our peers, and approach scientific meetings with this aim, rather than to overtly promote what we do. In our experience spending our time understanding new developments in environmental science has been of much higher value.