REACH-related Expertise of the Department of Ecological Chemistry

The new regulation concerning the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) requires demonstration of the safe manufacture of chemicals and their safe use throughout the supply chain, based on the precautionary principle. Another aim of REACH is to reduce the number of animal tests where possible.

The Department of Ecological Chemistry contributes to this aim by investigating alternative test methods:

  • Computational (in silico) methods
  • Bioassays: non-animal in vitro methods (luminiscent bacteria and ciliates).
  • Chemoassays

Apart from the possible replacement or reduction of animal tests, another advantage of computational methods is that a high number of substances can be screened in order to identify potentially toxic substances which can then be tested with priority. This approach is faster and more efficient than the extensive standard testing of all substances.
In silico screening can also be applied to chemical structures of compounds that do not yet exist. In this way, computational methods can support the design and development of low-hazard chemical substances.

For the registration of chemicals within REACH, information has to be provided on their:

  • Physico-chemical properties
  • Toxicology
  • Ecotoxicology

Read more

On the OSIRIS project websites you will find

The Department of Ecological Chemistry contributes to the risk assessment of chemicals according to REACH by addressing:

Physico-chemical properties

Prediction of physico-chemical properties of chemicals from their molecular structure
(software ChemProp developed in the Department)

Environmental fate

Evaluation of partitioning between abiotic and biotic matrices and degradation with computational and experimental methods.


  • The toxicity of chemicals is related to their chemical reactivity: Characterization of molecular reactivity and prediction of toxicity by means of qualitative and quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR's).
  • Development of chemoassays for quantification of toxicity-relevant reactivity of organic chemicals as screening instrument.
  • Determination of chemical toxicity towards luminiscent bacteria and ciliates.

REACH-related Activities of the Department of Ecological Chemistry

Integrated EU Project OSIRIS 2007-2011

"Optimized Strategies for Risk Assessment of Industrial Chemicals through Integration of Non-Test and Test Information"

This IP with explicit reference to REACH was coordinated and headed in our department.

Coordinator und UFZ Principal Investigator: Gerrit Schüürmann

The goal of the project OSIRIS was to develop integrated testing strategies (ITS) fit for REACH that enable to significantly increase the use of non-testing information for regulatory decision making, and thus to minimise the need for animal testing. To this end, operational procedures were developed, tested and disseminated that guide a transparent and scientifically sound evaluation of chemical substances in a risk-driven, context-specific and substance-tailored manner.
The developed decision theory framework includes alternative methods such as chemical and biological read-across, in vitro results, in vivo information on analogues, qualitative and quantitative structure-activity relationships, thresholds of toxicological concern and exposure-based waiving. OSIRIS took into account cost-benefit analyses, and it aimed to close the gap between risk and societal risk perception. It was based on the new REACH paradigm to move away from extensive standard testing to a more intelligent, substance-tailored approach.

OSIRIS homepage

ECHA tender "FET for REACH" 2015

Theme: "Analysis of the relevance and adequateness of using Fish Embryo Acute Toxicity (FET) Test Guidance (OECD 236) to fulfil the information requirements and addressing concerns under REACH".

3 UFZ Departments. Principal investigator: S. Scholz (Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology)

Partners: UFZ-Departments of Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology (Stefan Scholz) and Cell Toxicology (Nils Klüver).

CEFIC-LRI Project NER 2014-2016

Theme: "Computer based prediction of the formation of Non-Extractable Residues (NER) of xenobiotics and their metabolites in soils and sediments with regard to their environmental hazard".

3 Partners. Principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

Partners: UFZ-Department Environmental Biotechnology (Matthias Kästner) and Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University (Andreas Schäffer).

Further information: Project description at CEFIC-LRI.

EU Project (7th Framework) SOLUTIONS 2013-2018

Theme: "Solutions for present and future emerging pollutants in land and water resources management".

39 Partners. Coordinator: Dr. Werner Brack (UFZ Department of Effect-Directed Analysis). 3 UFZ departments involved.

Further information: SOLUTIONS homepage.

EU Project (7th Framework) MODERN 2013-2015

Theme: "Modeling the environmental and human health effects of nanomaterials".

7 Partners. Coordinator: Prof. Francesc Giralt (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Departament d'Enginyeria Química, BioCenit Research Lab, Tarragona, Spanien). UFZ principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

Further information: MODERN homepage.

EU Coordination Action (7th Framework) HEROIC 2011-2014

Theme: "Health and Environmental Risks: Organisation, Integration and Crossfertilisation of Scientific Knowledge".

9 Partners. Coordinator: Dr. Martin Wilks (University of Basel, Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology, Switzerland). UFZ principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

Further information: HEROIC homepage.

BMBF Joint Research Project ProHapTox 2015-2018

Theme: "Development of a reactivity based testing strategy for detecting the skin sensitization potential of elektrophilic and pro-elektrophilic industrial chemicals within the framework of the chemical regulation REACH without animal tests".

2 Partners. Principal investigator: G. Schüürmann. UFZ principal investigator: Dr. Alexander Böhme

Partner: Institute for Organic Chemistry at the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg.

BfR Grant CompuSens 2014-2016

Theme: "Development of a computer based consensus model for the predictive assessment of the dermal and respiratory sensitisation potential of organic chemicals in the framework of REACH – CompuSens".

Principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

DBU Doctoral Scholarship KonsIstenS 2013-2016

Theme: "Construction of a computational consensus model for the in-silico toxicological assessment of the sensitization potential of organic chemicals within the context of REACH".

Scholar: M. Hillebrand.
Supervisor: G. Schüürmann. 

UBA Project on Potential Endocrine Disruptors 2014-2017

Theme: "REACH - In silico screening for potential endocrine disruptors".

2 Partners. Principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

Partner: FIWI Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health at the University of Bern (Helmut Segner).

UBA Project on Non-lipid Based Bioconcentration 2011-2014

Theme: "Investigation of non-lipid based bioaccumulation behaviour of compounds".

4 Partners. UFZ is sub-contractor of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology,  Schmallenberg, Germany (FhG IME). Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Christian Schlechtriem (FhG IME) and Dr. Monika Nendza (Analytisches Laboratorium für Umweltuntersuchungen und Auftragsforschung, Luhnstedt, Germany). UFZ principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

UBA Project on Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification 2011-2014

Theme: "Advancements of the criteria for bioaccumulation under REACH".

3 Partners. UFZ is sub-contractor of the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology,  Schmallenberg, Germany (FhG IME). Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Christian Schlechtriem (FhG IME). UFZ principal investigator: G. Schüürmann.

Continuing Education courses of the German Chemical Society (GDCh)

On behalf of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), since 2011 Gerrit Schüürmann holds at the UFZ the course

"Structure-activity relationships (QSAR) to predict physico-chemical properties and potentials for adverse effects of chemical compounds"

[in German]

Other Third Party Funded Projects

A full list of third party projects pages of our department is available on the Projects page..