Special Sessions

The Scientific Committee has scheduled a series of Special Sessions that put the overarching theme of the conference, “One Environment. One Health. Sustainable Societies.”, 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.

Monday, 27 May | 8:30–10:05 | Session Room 203

Co-chairs: Sabine Elisabeth Apitz, Lorraine Maltby, Heinz Stichnothe, Francesca Verones

Background: The benefits which flow from natural capital, termed ecosystem services (ES), are under threat from habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation and pollution. At the same time they are increasingly the focus of environmental policy. Among the top 10 research questions identified by the SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Project was “Biodiversity and ecosystem services: What are we trying to protect, where, when, why, and how?” An ES approach has been used to frame specific protection goals for ecological risk assessment (ERA) and the inclusion of ES into the life cycle impact assessment (LCA) framework is a current activity in the LCA community. ES are also being used to frame broader sustainability, cost-benefit and stakeholder engagement. It is therefore an opportune time to bring the ERA and holistic assessment communities together. An objective of the EU 7th Environment Action Programme is ‘to protect, conserve and enhance Europe’s natural capital’ and the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy has a target of ‘halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020’.

Scope: Do we, however, have sufficient knowledge and understanding to assess, predict and manage the effects of anthropogenic activities on ES delivery in multifunctional landscapes that are often exposed to multiple pressures, and are the monitoring, regulatory and decision frameworks that have developed over decades fit for purpose as we seek to apply this evolving knowledge? Assessing and managing the risks that stressors, often introduced as people seek to obtain selected services from land- and waterscapes, pose to the sustainable delivery of these and other ES is a transdisciplinary challenge requiring new approaches to communication and collaboration.

Objective: Presentations from researchers, assessors, regulators and others, presenting their work, reflecting on the state of the practice and the path forward, were encouraged. For researchers: What are the key recent achievements? How can we best ensure that evolving research is affecting ecosystems and risk assessment, management and policy? For assessors, managers and decision makers: are ES concepts helping us make different decisions, or the same decisions differently? What is the role of ES concepts in decisions? Is the ES paradigm being used as an organising principle or a post-hoc communication tool? How do we facilitate the use of ES in aggregating tools such as LCA, sustainability and cost-benefit assessment? Is the promise of more holistic thinking being met? Are ES assessments being monetised, and if so, to what extent are scientists and assessors engaged in how this is done? What are the gaps and barriers to fulfilling the potential of the ES paradigm? What are the steps forward? What can we hold up as examples of best practice? The platform session with end with a group discussion.


8:30 Introduction (co-chairs)
8:35 European Assessment and management of risks to ecosystem services: Reflections (Sabine Elisabeth Apitz, SEA Environmental Decisions Ltd, UK)
9:00 Building on the LCA experience to initiate a standardisation process for ecosystem services (Simone Quatrini, ETH Zurich (CH) / Environmental Systems Science, Switzerland)
9:25 Soil Quality and related Ecosystem Services in Life Cycle Assessment (Heinz Stichnothe, Thünen Institute, Germany)
9:50 Discussion
10:05 End

Monday, 27 May |  8:30–12:25 | Session Room 208

Co-chairs: Joop de Knecht, Daniel T. Salvito, Eleni Vaiopoulou, Sandrine Estelle Deglin


Worldwide, several groups are working on improved strategies / approaches to overcome these challenges in testing, assessing and regulating UVCB substances. Such groups include industrial sectors such as the petroleum, metals and fragrance material industries and authorities such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the HESI Project Committee on UVCB Environmental Risk Assessment and the ECHA PetCo Working Group. This special session is intended to cover a wide diversity of substances used by industry and consumers, which fits under the theme of Helsinki 2019 meeting “One Environment. One Health. Sustainable Societies”.

Lately some methods have been developed which render the results of toxicity testing of multi-constituent substances and UVCBs more relevant for both hazard (classification and PBT assessment) and risk assessments. Such testing is done by considering the environmental fate processes acting on constituents of these substances and combines analytical methods, dosing methods, fate directed fractionation, toxicity testing and modelling. For example, the European industry associations for essential oils have published guidelines to help companies to fulfil their legal requirements for the environmental assessment of natural complex substances which in many cases might be of UVCB nature (ECHA Guidance). The “water accommodated fraction” (WAF) methodology is used to determine ecotoxicological endpoints and it can as well be used to refine and validate in silicomethods aimed to account for constituents of UVCBs.

Since its establishment, the PetCo WG has mainly focused on the prioritisation of petroleum and coal substances for scrutiny and further regulatory action, based on use pattern and available information on hazard with a focus on CMR and PBT properties. The prioritisation approach is available on the ECHA website. Lately the discussions have focused on identifying a way to optimally generate experimental data on PBT properties in order to move from prioritisation to hazard assessment. The approach takes into account the special nature of these substances and the fact that their compositions share a large but common set of constituents.

For the assessment of petroleum UVCB substances the so-called ‘hydrocarbon block method’ (HBM) has been developed to characterize these UVCBs and to assess associated environmental hazard and risk. The HBM allows the chemical characterisation of a petroleum substance by reducing the complexity of its composition to a limited number of blocks of constituents. Examples are elaborated with the aim to identify the uncertainties that are associated with the grouping of the substance constituents to a number of blocks for identification of the hazards posed by the substance itself. Furthermore, for the implementation of this approach it will be important to achieve a common understanding on the acceptable magnitudes of these uncertainties. Such uncertainties need to be identified and quantified to allow policy makers taking decisions from a regulatory risk management perspective.

The Petco WG is working on developing this methodology to provide a better understanding of how hazard assessment could be carried out for these very complex UVCBs to also support policy discussions. The learnings gained with the petroleum substances may also be relevant for assessment of UVCBs in general.

In this special session, the groups working on UVCBs will present their work carried out so far and discuss (tiered) strategies / approaches for testing and assessment of UVCBs (for the purpose of PBT assessment, classification and labelling, and risk assessment). Aspects for discussion will further include variability in the composition of UVCBs and remaining uncertainties of the assessment approaches, as well as the implementation of these approaches in the different regulatory frameworks.

8:30 Introduction (co-chairs)
8:35 What makes it challenging to regulate UVCBs ? – A perspective from regulatory authorities on how to regulate in an effective and proportionate manner multi-constituent and UVCBs (Chrystele Tissier, ECHA-European Chemicals Agency, Finland)
9:00 Difficulties in regulating UVCBs: Industry perspective (Delina Lyon, Shell Oil Co., USA)
9:25 Petroleum substances: ongoing program to address hazard assessment including how to capture variability in composition (Louise Camenzuli, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Belgium)
9:45 The Environmental Assessment of Natural Complex Substances under REACH (Karen Jenner, Givaudan, UK)
10:05 Coffee & posters
10:50 Introduction (co-chairs)
10:55 Approaches to address variability and uncertainty in PBT and risk assessment of Petroleum substances (Aaron Redman, Exxon Mobil Biomedical Sciences, USA)
11:12 A proposed Method of Determining Environmental Risk of Complex Substances (Paul Thomas, CEHTRA SAS, France)
11:29 UVCB fate-directed toxicity testing and risk assessment (UVCB-FATETOX) (Philipp Mayer, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark)
11:46 Risk management of inorganic UVCB substances in the metal sector (Violaine Verougstraete, Eurometaux, Belgium)
12:03 Panel discussion
12:25 End

Wednesday, 29 May |  13:55–15:30 |  Session Room 203

Co-chairs: Leonie Nuesser, David MV Saunders

The topic of gender equality and all of its nuances has been at the forefront of our culture and media and has resulted in many important discussions and insights. This topic also led to the SETAC Globe article Overcoming Bias (Tamar Schlekat & Jennifer Lynch; Volume 19 Issue 3) where the authors addressed gender inequality and its many forms that are still present in our scientific community. In the SETAC Globe article the authors call to “better and more directly discuss and take responsibility for gender bias”. We would like to bring the SETAC community together to facilitate this important discussion about gender, bias and equal opportunities in our field.

Gender bias and unequal opportunity are well documented in science and research and have the potential to affect careers and scientific innovation. Gender bias is present in many forms including bias in publishing, promotions and career development, role models for young researchers, and research design. A plethora of research has demonstrated how quality and innovation in science greatly benefits from a diverse workforce while the loss of diversity can have consequences for scientific progress. Recent projects in Europe and North America, including the Baltic Gender project funded through the HORIZON 2020 programme call for promoting “Gender Equality in Research and Innovation”, highlight efforts to work toward equality and inclusivity in science. These programmes are critical to further discussion within our field and change the prevailing culture and norms in scientific research.

This special session will address topics that are of concern in gender bias and equality in scientific research. The session will include platform presentations from researchers within the SETAC community and invited guests. Following the presentations, the speakers will engage in a round-table dialogue using the ‘Dialogue Format’, a novel communication model which facilitates the open exchange of ideas and opinions. The objective of this session is to engage a broad audience of new and experienced scientists to facilitate learning and discussion of the topic of gender bias and equality. The #metoo and other associated movements have shown that this topic is defining a new generation of young scientists, so it is important that SETAC, a leading organization in environmental sciences, host this timely discussion.


13:55 Introduction (co-chairs)
14:00 Promoting equality in research organizations: lessons from the Baltic Gender project (Helena Valve, Finnish Environment Institute, Finland)
14:20 Gender bias, publishing, and SETAC (Jen Lynch, SETAC, USA)
14:40 Old and New Faces of Gender and Diversity Bias in Science (Miriam Diamond, University of Toronto, Canada)
15:00 Round Table Dialogue
15:30 End

Wednesday, 29 May | 13:55–15:30 | Session Room 208

Co-chairs: Frances Nilsen, Christina Baghdikian, Niladri Basu, Tom Augspurger

Across the globe today, there are various complex issues that are at the intersection of the human, animal, and ecosystem health triad. To address these issues, it is imperative that a variety of scientific disciplines and research objectives come together and connect. The One Health framework is a collaborative, transdisciplinary effort to improve health for people, animals, plants, and the environment. The framework centers around the One Health triad of disciplines grouped into human, wildlife, and ecosystem health sciences. Using the One Health approach to research and address environmental issues offers distinct benefits in translating component-specific research linking environmental pathways that affect human health and ecological outcomes. The One Health concept integrates various environmental processes and impacts – from climate change to ecological changes that affect transport of disease agents (including pathogens and chemical contaminants), and diseases, particularly zoonoses. Increasingly, integration of the One Health paradigm requires detailed knowledge of environmental systems and ways to present these interactions are diverse and increasingly complex. Approaches and outcomes from biology at various levels of organization, human and eco-toxicology, chemistry, quantitative analysis, and modeling combine to inform existing frameworks like lifecycle analysis and risk assessment and can help provide more robust solutions to these complex problems.

The One Health session will highlight approaches taken to integrate the One Health framework into different areas of research. As an introduction to the One Health concept and its applications for SETAC scientists and managers, we have limited the number of speakers to one each from academia, business/industry, government, and non-profit. The session will specifically highlight SETAC’s approach to integration across the society, the use of a species extrapolation tool to link chemical susceptibilities across taxa, an integrated assessment to better understand PFAS in the environment, and One Health-related lessons learned from the recent Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.

Following each presentation, the presenters will discuss One Health issues from the audience. The differing approaches to One Health integration will provide the audience with a variety of perspectives to utilize in their own research.


13:55 One Health: Interdisciplinary solutions for complex problems – topic overview and session goals (Tom Augspurger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USA)
14:05 Advancing integrated holistic approaches for assessment of health and environmental risks within the SETAC scientific community (Charlie Menzie, SETAC, USA)
14:20 Extrapolation of Chemical Susceptibilities Across Humans, Domesticated Animals, Wildlife, and Plants using the SeqAPASS Tool (Jonathon Doering, NRC U.S. EPA, USA)
14:35 A veterinary perspective on One Health in the Arctic (Christian Sonne, Aarhus University AU Arctic Research Centre, Denmark)
14:50 Applying a “One Health” Approach to the Assessment of PFAS: Opportunity to Prevent Unintended Consequences (Theresa Lopez, Tetra Tech, Inc., USA)
15:05 Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health: Findings, One Health Perspectives, and SETAC Opportunities (Nil Basu, McGill University, Canada)
15:20 Panel discussion
15:30 End

Monday 27 May 27 | 13:55–15:30 | Session Room 206

Co-chairs: Silke Gabbert, Monika Nendza, Oliver Warwick

Background and scope: The use of chemicals creates enormous benefits to society but can also have measurable negative impacts on the environment and on human health. The aim of (regulatory or voluntary) control measures is, therefore, to ensure that these impacts can be minimised to acceptable levels. Socio-economic analysis (SEA) assesses and compares the expected positive and negative impacts – or benefits and costs. The ultimate aim is to support decision-making on continuing, reducing or stopping the use of a chemical.

SEA has been included into different regulatory frameworks in- and outside Europe. Irrespective of the specific regulatory context, SEA faces a number of conceptual, methodological and operational challenges. A key challenge is how to assess and balance different types of impacts (e.g. environmental impacts, impacts to human health, economic impacts). For instance, a recent report published by the European Commission suggests an approach to SEA for persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) chemicals in the context of the EU REACH Regulation authorisation and restriction processes, basing impact evaluation on the assessment of the expected time path of pollution in the environment (see publication). Closely related to the problem of impact assessment is the question how impacts can, or should, be valued (see OECD). Likewise, since SEA requires integrating information on chemical hazards, exposure, risks and impacts, risk assessors need to work closely with economic assessors in order to jointly develop innovative and functional integrated assessment tools. These challenges underline a need for strengthening interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Objectives: Given the need to identify coherent and cost-effective risk management decisions for hazardous chemicals on the one hand, and the increasing attention paid on developing and implementing SEA as an operational tool in regulatory decision-processes on the other, this session aims to strengthen the multi-stakeholder dialogue on this tool by (i) presenting examples and lessons learned from SEA applications in different policy contexts, (ii) addressing methodological, empirical and policy challenges related to SEA, and (iii) discussing opportunities for target-oriented improvements. The interactive setup of this special session, combining oral presentations of different stakeholders (academia, private companies, regulatory agencies) in combination with a structured discussion stimulates both speakers and the audience to contribute to a critical but constructive discussion about the usefulness and the potential limitations of SEA, and how synergies between stakeholders and disciplines can best be used for improving the state-of-the-art. The special session will, therefore, set the scene for interdisciplinary initiatives for SEA method development and applications, which would be a very valuable contribution to the domain.


13:55 Introduction (co-chairs)
14:00 SEA under REACH: State-of-play and areas for improvement (Christoph Rheinberger, ECHA, Finland)
14:12 Incentives for truthful reporting in seeking authorisation for using substances of very high concern (Daniel Slunge, Gothenburg University, Sweden)
14:24 Political Economy of Inclusion on the REACH Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern (Jessica Coria, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
14:36 Can SEA be a reliable decision-making tool for proper risk management on chemicals in a safe and circular economy? The metals industry perspective (Hugo Waeterschoot, Eurometaux, Belgium)
14:48 Impact assessment in SEA: A structured review of 24 REACH registration dossiers (Isabel Hilber, Agroscope ART, Switzerland)
15:00 SEA experiences from RIVM (The Netherlands) (Arianne de Blaeij, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM, Netherlands)
15:12 Panel discussion with questions from audience
15:30 End

Tuesday, 28 May | 8:30–12:25 | Session Room 203

Co-chairs: Denis Mottet, Joel Aaron Tickner, Rinske van Heiningen

The progressive substitution of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives contributes to the overarching EU objectives for a non-toxic environment and promotes a circular economy wherein innovation and sustainable production and consumption are key elements. However, the need to rethink conventional substitution approaches -typically the search for a “drop in” replacement from the same chemical group- has gained attention in recent years. Concepts such as functional substitution and safe-by-design are increasingly known and advances in the methodologies and tools to support analyses of alternatives are improving informed substitution initiatives. Despite the progress made, the scientific expertise in and the practical experience with the analysis of alternatives, substitution and sustainable chemistry innovations are not widespread yet. In this context, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published in January 2018 a strategy to promote substitution to safer chemicals through innovation. The strategy focuses on four action areas:

  1. capacity building on analysis of alternatives and substitution,
  2. facilitation of access to research funding and technical support,
  3. facilitation of access to relevant data to avoid regrettable substitution, and
  4. networking.

In order to promote its strategy and encourage further discussion in the scientific community, ECHA co-organises this special session together with the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the U.S., a front-runner in the science of alternative assessment and in engaging stakeholder dialogues on the topic of informed substitution. This special session aims at providing an overall perspective of the context in which substitution of chemicals of concern takes place, from analysis of alternatives as a response to a regulatory requirement to sustainable chemistry and safe-by-design approaches. Participants will be invited to discuss the needs and opportunities for more strongly integrating the substitution of hazardous chemicals with innovations in sustainable chemistry and the role of the different stakeholders.


8:30 Introduction (co-chairs)
8:35 Latest developments in the science and practice of alternatives assessment and further research needs (Molly Jacobs, University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA)
8:50 Case studies on Analysis of Alternatives under the REACH Authorisation process (Elke Van Asbroeck, Apeiron-team NV, Belgium
9:05 Innovation in fouling control, from chemical substitution to UV-C systems (Julian Hunter, Akzo Nobel N.V, Netherlands)
9:20 Substitution of Hazardous Chemicals: Lessons, Opportunities and Challenges from a Civil Society Organization’s Perspective (Mengjiao Wang, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, UK)
9:35 Questions
9:40 General discussion with panel and audience
10:00 Concluding remarks for part I and a teaser for part II (co-chairs)
10:05 Coffee & posters
10:50 Introduction (co-chairs)
10:55 Green chemistry as tool to advance safer solvent substitution (Fergal Byrne, University of York, UK)
11:10 Substitution and sustainable chemistry: What are key aspects and how to keep the assessment of alternatives fit-for-purpose? (Christopher Blum, Federal Environment Agency, Germany)
11:25 A systematic approach to use safer chemicals in product design (TBD)
11:40 From substitution to safe-by-design: towards a safe chemicals innovation agenda (Jochem van der Waals, Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Netherlands)
11:55 Questions
12:00 General discussion with panel and audience
12:20 Wrap-up and closing (co-chairs)

Monday, 27 May | 10:50–15:30 | Session Room 203

Co-chairs: Annegaaike Leopold, Charmaine Ajao, Thomas-Benjamin Seiler

It is well documented that scientists on opposite sides of a policy-relevant scientific controversy commonly perceive the other side as biased but see themselves as objective. It’s also well documented that scholars on opposite sides can be using the same data and yet be strengthened in their position. Less is known about the factors that lead to this phenomenon, that is: why more data and rigorous analysis do not resolve such conflicts. This infers that consensus is not possible (and perhaps actually not desirable). Even less is known – at least to the SETAC membership – about how to sensibly navigate this terrain. Therefore, this special session will investigate topics in which the “sides” that are taken are impacted by philosophical positions/values that are carried by people and by different stakeholders given their role in society (e.g. industry/regulators, etc). Based on the very good experience from the special session at SETAC Rome, another session with contradicting views, perspectives and opinions is organised, in order to learn about the different sides and fuel a discussion about how far we can take the idea of science-based communication, where this meets its limitations, and how we as the SETAC community should and could deal with this phenomenon.

This special session is part of session series foreseen to achieve objective Obj1c.2 “Special session or symposium or professional course on “science-based risk communication” within the subgoal 1c “Science-based risk communication” of the SETAC Europe strategic goal 1 “Quality and Credibility of Science”. The session will feature seven talks by representatives of academia, government and industry and will dwell on two topics that serve as examples of issues that are hotly debated scientifically. After each talk, the audience will be given a short time to ask questions for better understanding. Following all presentations the speakers will form a panel and discuss with each other and the audience.


10:50 Introduction (co-chairs)
10:55 The Role of Philosophical Positions and Values in Scientific Controversies(Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University, USA)
Part 1: How to protect the health and safety of people and the environment, cater for the planet and promote innovation: pesticides as case example
11:15 The use of pesticides should be critically considered: the emblematic case of neonicotinoids (Jean-Marc Bonmatin, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)
11:27 Principles to enable farm productivity and conservation through modern crop protection(Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Syngenta Crop Protection AG, Switzerland)
11:39 Promoting sustainable use of pesticides and innovation: the Finnish experience (Tove Jern, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland)
11:51 Discussion with presenters panel and audience (Moderators: Mamta Patel, Chemical Watch, UK & Thomas Backhaus, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
12:25 Lunch & posters
Part 2: How the values behind the science investigating the transfer of food contact material into packaged goods can lead to different conclusions regarding the severity of the problem
13:55 Introduction (co-chairs)
14:00 Food contact chemicals and human health: facts and fiction  (Jane Muncke, Food Packaging Forum Foundation, Switzerland)
14:12 Food Contact Materials – wishes and reality (Thomas Gude, Swiss Quality Testing Services, Switzerland)
14:24 Risk Assessment of Food Packaging Materials: Use of Data and Methodologies in the Scientific Assessment (Claudia Roncancio Pena, EFSA, Italy)
14:36 Discussion with presenters panel and audience (Moderators: Mamta Patel, Chemical Watch, UK & Gunilla Öberg, University of British Columbia, Canada)
15:30 End