E&H Annual Symposium ‘WASTE – A MATTER OF TASTE’, 3 December 2019 9:30-16:30

A growing world population with intensive economies, global markets and increasing transport is creating enormous piles of waste. Up to 2015, over 6 billion tonnes of plastic waste were produced by humans, which is equivalent to 60 million blue whales. While wastewater treatment plants and incinerators exist as waste management strategies, materials and chemicals that do not degrade easily are still being produced. How do we deal with all that waste? Can we recycle waste to safe consumer products in circular economies? What kind of chemicals end up in the waste or recycled products? What are the effects of chemicals in waste on our environmental resources and our health?

Following two earlier successful symposia, the VU department of Environment & Health is organizing a symposium on 3 December 2019 under the title Waste – a Matter of Taste to discuss these issues with scientists, authorities and industry representatives. The full-day program is designed to pose thought-provoking questions, and will provide ample opportunity for discussion and networking with scientists, health professionals and other stakeholders. 

Registration is free and mandatory.

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Inaugural lecture prof.dr. Majorie van Duursen

At 6 September, 15.45 in the aula, prof.dr. Majorie van Duursen will give her inaugural lecture in Dutch on “Raging hormones: living/surviving in a chemical world".

Lecture by Mike Denison

At 18 January Prof. Mike Denison will give a presentation at 9.30-10.30 in the Oǀ2 auditorium on ‘Exactly The Same… But Different: Ligand-Diversity in Ah (Dioxin) Receptor Signaling and Response’. Prof. Denison has recently retired as a professor in Environmental Toxicology at University of California –Davis. He is well known for his work on the toxicology of dioxins. He has an impressive publication record on topics such as molecular mechanisms of receptor action and receptor-based bioassays for xenobiotics.

PhD defense Nick Zwart

At 18 January, 13.45 in the aula, Nick Zwart will defend his PhD thesis on Miniaturized bioassays for high-resolution effect-directed analysis of the aquatic environment. The supervisor is Prof. Jacob de Boer, and co-supervisors: Dr. Timo Hamers, Prof. Marja Lamoree and Dr. Corine Houtman of the Water Laboratory in Haarlem.

PhD defense Louise van Mourik

At 14 February, 09.45 in the aula, Louise van Mourik will defend her PhD thesis on Optimising analytical methods for chlorinated paraffins to evaluate their levels in Australia. Supervisors are Prof. Jacob de Boer and Prof. Jochen Müller, Queensland University, Brisbane, Australia, and co-supervisors Prof. Pim. Leonards and Dr. Caroline Gaus, Queensland University.


Microplastics Analysis Workshop Gears Up for First Interlaboratory Study

29 November 2018

A dynamic Microplastics Analysis Workshop hosted by the Dept. of E&H attracted over 110 participants from 24countries, filling the VU’s O|2 Auditorium for two fast-paced, informative days (27 & 28 Nov 2018). Participants engaged in open discussions on the quality assurance/quality control (‘QA/QC’) needs of analytical laboratories and data users. High-quality presentations of microplastics analytical approaches in theory and practice were given by an excellent line-up of guest speakers and poster presenters. The VU-NIVA-QUASIMEME-NORMAN scientific organizing committee presented a proposal for a microplastics interlaboratory study, built up of consecutive rounds of sample analyses of increasing complexity and listened carefully to the feedback from the participants on their needs for the study design.

The interlaboratory study now in preparation will be open (2019) to any microplastics analysis laboratory with an interest of joining a community engaged in learning exercises and increasing and demonstrating their proficiency with this notoriously challenging new target analyte class. ‘Microplastic’ is a catch-all phrase for plastic particles spanning 6 orders of magnitude in particle size and a gigantic variety of chemical compositions:  (co)polymers, chemical additives, residual monomers, fillers, catalysts, non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) etc. The diversity of this analyte class gives rise to a search for a mix of methodologies to answer the burning questions in microplastic research and to scientifically support plastic pollution mitigation policies under consideration by state and non-state actors.

To get involved, to subscribe for updates and/or participate in the upcoming first round of the interlaboratory, send an email to (or one of the organising committee members below) and keep an eye on the and the E&H websites.

The Dept. of Environment and Health of the Vrije Universiteit has recognized the need for an open interlaboratory study on plastic particles and teamed up with interlaboratory study provider QUASIMEME, the NORMAN Network and NIVA to meet this need. The event was organized by Heather Leslie, Louise van Mourik, Jacob de Boer, (VU E&H) and Bert van Bavel (NIVA), in collaboration with Steven Crum, Esther van den Berg of QUASIMEME, and Wim Cofino of QUASIMEME and NORMAN. The organisers thank the E&H grad students and staff who contributed to the smooth and pleasant running of the workshop: Deepti Siddhanti, Glenn Spiessens, Martin van Velzen and Renate Mooij.

Louise van Mourik: | Heather Leslie: | Jacob de Boer:


E&H Annual Symposium, 22 November 2018

E&H Symposium 2018 fotoIn our consumer society, people and organisms are constantly exposed to complex mixtures of contaminants. The contaminant sources include emissions from industry, agriculture, buildings, vehicles, households and a multitude of products that leach contaminants to both indoor and outdoor environments. This symposium engages the audience to contemplate contemporary questions related to strategies for assessing the environmental and human health risks of complex environmental contaminant mixtures. 

Risk assessment of compounds typically follows a compound-by-compound approach, thus ignoring mixture exposures and effects. This symposium has a focus on three different types of complex mixtures, each with their own challenges.

(1) Many products contain substances that consist of multiple chemicals, such as petroleum, chlorinated paraffins, flavoring agents, fluorinated compounds, animal fats and essential oils and their derivatives, PCBs and microplastics. For such substances, which are often classified under REACH as Multi-Constituent Substances (MCS) or Chemical Substances of Unknown or Variable Composition, Complex Reaction Products and Biological Materials (UVCBs), etc., risk assessment is still in its infancy and presents a major challenge.

(2) Environmental contamination typically consists of complex mixtures. Challenges in this field are the assessment of the complex mixture, the prioritization of individual constituents of the mixture for regulatory action and the complex interaction of chemical stressors with other environmental stressors. 

(3) The human life-course environmental exposure – the exposome – is currently a subject of several recent research activities. The challenge in this field is to understand the realistic total mixture exposures in time and use these to assess potential health effects.

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30 November 2017

The VU’s newly established Department of Environment and Health invites you to its debut symposium on Thursday 30 November 2017 in the new O|2 Building on the VU campus in Amsterdam. Entitled ‘Solving tomorrow’s toxic problems today’ this symposium engages speakers and audience members regarding contemporary questions in environmental health and chemical (and plastic) pollution. Topics include toxic chemicals in products, waste streams and secondary materials and the links between chemical exposure and negative public health outcomes.

Considering these topics, we will ask the question what criteria are important for the chemicals of the future, and what paths we can take to solve toxicity and exposure issues in an earlier stage, before the contamination – and adverse health ramifications - go global. The full-day program is designed to pose thought-provoking questions, and will provide ample opportunity for discussion and networking with scientists, health professionals and other stakeholders. Online registration is mandatory and free. Details on the programme are presented on the following page and online.

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