Core Subject Area
Chemicals in the Environment | Health
We need chemicals in our lives just as we need air to breathe and chemicals essentially improve our living conditions. Knowledge of chemical compounds – of their properties, their behaviour in the environment, their ecotoxicity as well as exposure – is the relevant basis for protecting nature and health.
It is the task of about 150 scientists from fields ranging from environmental chemistry, bioanalytical ecotoxology, analytical chemistry, environmental immunology to genetics to examine the complex behaviour of chemical compounds. In doing so we combine methods of chemical and biological analysis in order to trace contaminants in the environment. We want to find out whether it is ‘the usual suspects’ or whether it is possible that trace elements, transformation products or the combined effects of chemicals can cause problems in the long-term. Here, we are developing model systems to investigate the biological effects of chemicals to find alternatives for animal testing. As test systems we use aquatic organisms such as algae, luminous bacteria, water fleas or fish and / or their embryos. Furthermore, we work on computer programmes that can be used to predict the properties of compounds, environmental behaviour and the toxicity of chemicals.
We also examine how chemicals affect the cells of the immune system and contribute to environment related diseases such as allergies. In this respect, system biology is gaining more significance. This new discipline combines biology, mathematics and physics in experimental and model-based approaches to understand biological processes in cells, tissues and organisms as a whole.
Our goal is to generate data and knowledge on the occurrence, the availability and the impact of chemical compounds in order to be able to better assess their potential risk and thus manage them appropriately. In doing so we make an important contribution to protect humans and the environment.