Why we spend our lives on ecotoxicology
Today 119 million unique chemicals have been registered in the worldwide chemical substance database (CAS) and every five seconds a new chemical is added. The exact number of registered chemicals on the EU market is unknown but a rough estimate by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP, 2013) says 140,000 and how each of those chemicals, alone or in combination, affects humans and wildlife is largely unknown. As ecotoxicologists it is our belief that our research and education can contribute to protection of the environment and wildlife from the consequences of the human chemical lifestyle.
We are proud of doing research that is closely linked to the needs of the society. For 15 years we have collaborated with the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen) to develop international test systems that reveal possible endocrine disrupting effects of chemicals in model organisms. This long-term collaboration has led to the development of an international protocol (OECD) for testing the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals in fish (nominated for the Danish Research Result of the Year, 2012) and the protocol has been approved as a mandatory test guideline for all OECD member states. Lately, we have contributed significantly to the development of two OECD test guidelines for reproductive toxicology in molluscs and they have just been ratified by the member states (August 2016).
Beneath this existential justification ecotoxicology is simply fascinating. By studying the biological effects of chemicals we can learn a lot about simple life processes. We as a research group enjoy that ecotoxicology is highly inter-disciplinary: if you study endocrine disrupting chemicals (hormonforstyrrende stoffer) you will learn about both organic chemicals and the hormone system; if you study the biochemical effects of metals you will learn about both chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology.