Knowledge of the environment, sustainable practices to the territory

The aim of ecotoxicology is the characterization of the chemical risk in order to achieve the development of scientific criteria designed to determine the extent to which certain modifications of the system, such as the release of dangerous substances (but also of nutrients) are ineffective or effective in acceptable manner.

Main applications

The ecotoxicological criterion is always combined with other types of evaluation, such as technological, economic, social, by the governing bodies at both national and supranational level, in order to produce adequate regulation (legal limits, or standards). This process is carried out through six steps:

  1. characterization of the molecule (physicochemical properties);
  2. hazard identification, namely the identification of a probable harmful effect (acute toxicity tests, QSAR);
  3. exposure assessment and then a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the probability of exposure to the investigated agent, as well as information on the agent itself (source, distribution, concentrations, characteristics, etc.). There is the need for data on the probability of contamination and exposure through valuation models and environmental monitoring also using bioconcentrators;
  4. qualitative and quantitative assessment of the damage by means of laboratory and field studies on (acute and chronic) toxicity at different levels of organization, using biotic indices and biomarkers;
  5. evaluation of the potential danger, i.e., the determination, in terms of quality and quantity, nature and severity of the adverse effect associated with a molecule; the relationship between the amount of the hazardous substance (exposure) and its effects is established at this level;
  6. risk characterization, i.e. qualitative and/or quantitative estimation, taking into account uncertainties and probability of adverse effects. Since it is established on the previous steps, it strictly depends on the working assumption made at each step; therefore when the data are inadequate or non-conclusive, a prudent and precautionary approach should be adopted in order to avoid an underestimation of the risk (Kriepel et al., 2001).

The ecotoxicological research highlights links between the intrinsic properties of the various substances, their transformations, interactions and fate in the environment.

 

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