Department of Analytical Environmental Chemistry . Graphic: Sebastian Kaulitzki /, Collage: noonox media

Department of Analytical Environmental Chemistry

To what extent do organisms take up chemicals from their environment via food, air or water? In which organs do such chemicals accumulate, how are they metabolised and excreted? What is the interplay of all these processes and what does that mean for the toxicity and bioaccumulation of these chemicals? What differences are there between species? How do we design experimental test systems that allow us to learn more about these questions without using animals?

Tens of thousands of chemicals need to be assessed with respect to their environmental behaviour and toxicity as part of their registration procedure. This is labour-intensive and expensive and it requires animal-based tests in many cases. In spite of all this effort, uncertainties in the assessment often remain. Our goal is to avoid animal testing and with improved mechanistic understanding of the process, optimise and simplify the assessment procedure.

Through experiments, we try to better understand how the molecular structure of a chemical influences its physical-chemical properties, e.g. its sorption to proteins or lipids. This knowledge is then used to develop predictive tools for these properties. All this detailed information also goes into a complex mathematical model for describing the fate of chemicals in vertebrates. This model can help to elucidate and predict toxic mechanisms and help to explain how effects may differ between species or even individuals due to differences in their physiology.

Our work aims at making the effect of chemicals in organisms predictable, based on the molecular structure of the chemicals and using detailed physiological information for the organism concerned. In a tiered approach, using experimental techniques and modelling, a maximum of information will become available with affordable effort.