SETAC 2024 22

Reflections on SETAC 2024

29 May 2024


The SETAC Europe 34th Annual Meeting recently held in Seville, Spain, was a great success. It brought together experts from diverse fields under the overarching theme of “Science-Based Solutions in Times of Crisis: Integrating Science and Policy for Environmental Challenges”. Fostering an environment that encouraged collaboration and knowledge exchange between scientists, policymakers, and industry representatives, the event provided an opportunity to address the pressing environmental challenges we face. 

The integration of science and policy is crucial in developing sustainable solutions that protect the planet without hindering economic and social progress. This year in particular the intersect between science and policy has become increasingly important with the introduction of additional frameworks and regulatory controls bringing persistence, endocrine disruption and bio accumulative factors into focus. The discussions and research presented at the event highlighted the need for a collaborative approach where scientific findings inform policy decisions, and policy frameworks facilitate the implementation of science-based solutions.

Representing Ricardo’s expertise in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and Agriculture disciplines, Chesney Swansborough, Megan Griffiths, Kate Schofield and Rachel Jobson presented five posters, one platform presentation, and chaired three scientific sessions. This blog summarises our collective highlights from the event – always a much anticipated date in their calendars!

Tackling the theme of the event head-on, several sessions reflected on new perspectives and developments in chemical (bio)degradation and persistence assessment, particularly regarding the characterisation, testing and assessment of complex, multi-constituent substances. Our team found persistence is continuing to be a “hot topic” at SETAC, and this significant interest is leading to rapid advancements in both research and policy. A point further emphasised by the large turnout to persistence-related sessions, posters – and the inaugural meeting of the recently established Persistence Science Interest Group (PSIG)!

Sessions focusing on the hazard, risks, and management of soil ecosystems for sustainable and environmental conservation highlighted the increasing awareness of the significant impact of chemicals and other anthropogenic stressors on soil health, linked to wider effects on environmental and human health. 

The five posters presented by Ricardo’s experts ranged from the ecotoxicity of microplastics and produced water, to the challenges associated with biodegradation simulation studies. 


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Notably, we also used a platform presentation to share the results of a trend analysis on bisphenol A (BPA) in European surface waters and sediments, providing valuable insights into the environmental fate and distribution of this widely used chemical compound. We were fortunate enough to be able to use the CREED scheme – developed by a SETAC technical workshop – to assess the relevance and reliability of environmental monitoring data. This study exemplifies the importance of rigorous scientific research in informing policy decisions and developing effective strategies for mitigating the impacts of pollutants on our environment. 

Bridging the gap between research and implementation in industry and regulation was a key opportunity identified in the LCA sessions, too. During the conference, several open-source resources were announced – a great way to remove barriers for others wishing to carry out assessments in support of the sustainability agenda. However, innovation is happening at a pace that databases and studies cannot always keep up with, inhibiting the standard harmonisation of LCA approaches and models. 


A key takeaway for the team was the importance of integration of LCA and environmental chemistry and toxicology for realising the vision of safe and sustainable by design (SSbD) products and materials. LCA provides a comprehensive evaluation of the environmental impacts associated with a product’s entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal or recycling. Environmental chemistry and toxicology focuses on the fate, behaviour, and effects of chemicals and pollutants in the environment, and can provide insights into the hazardous properties, exposure pathways, and potential risks of chemicals used in a product or released during its life cycle. 

It is by combining the two disciplines that enables SSbD to holistically assess the safety and sustainability aspects of products and materials. This integration supports the development of safer, more sustainable products from early design stages and aligns with the European Commission's Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and Zero Pollution Ambition, promoting a toxic-free environment and circular economy. This is an area that Ricardo’s combined expertise is particularly well suited to support organisations both understand their wider environmental impact or their products and prepare for the future.



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To establish a comprehensive risk assessment framework for microplastics in the terrestrial environment, based on a critical analysis of existing effects data and the generation of new, environmentally relevant data. With thanks to the Cefic-LRI ECO61 monitoring team. 

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Persistence Assessment Tool

To implement a methodology for the systematic evaluation of data quality and weight of evidence determination, providing support to practitioners for the robust, consistent and transparent assessment of persistence under different regulatory frameworks.

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Biogenic carbon and LCA

To address the imbalances by developing and applying a logic tree-based solution to datasets prior to use in results calculation.

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To produce an IOGP guidance document on the fate and effects of naturally occurring substances in produced water. In partnership with the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers.

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Exxon VHS OECD 309

To discuss challenges with assessing volatile hydrophobic substances in OECD 309, efforts to address these substances, implications for study results, and recommendations for future development.

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