Background Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made fluorinated chemicals, widely used in various types of consumer products, resulting in their omnipresence in human populations. The aim of this study was to describe current PFAS levels in European teenagers and to investigate the determinants of serum/plasma concentrations in this specific age group. Methods PFAS concentrations were determined in serum or plasma samples from 1957 teenagers (12–18 years) from 9 European countries as part of the HBM4EU aligned studies (2014–2021). Questionnaire data were post-harmonized by each study and quality checked centrally. Only PFAS with an overall quantification frequency of at least 60% (PFOS, PFOA, PFHxS and PFNA) were included in the analyses. Sociodemographic and lifestyle factors were analysed together with food consumption frequencies to identify determinants of PFAS exposure. The variables study, sex and the highest educational level of household were included as fixed factors in the multivariable linear regression models for all PFAS and each dietary variable was added to the fixed model one by one and for each PFAS separately. Results The European exposure values for PFAS were reported as geometric means with 95% confidence intervals (CI): PFOS [2.13 μg/L (1.63–2.78)], PFOA ([0.97 μg/L (0.75–1.26)]), PFNA [0.30 μg/L (0.19–0.45)] and PFHxS [0.41 μg/L (0.33–0.52)]. The estimated geometric mean exposure levels were significantly higher in the North and West versus the South and East of Europe. Boys had significantly higher concentrations of the four PFAS compared to girls and significantly higher PFASs concentrations were found in teenagers from households with a higher education level. Consumption of seafood and fish at least 2 times per week was significantly associated with 21% (95% CI: 12–31%) increase in PFOS concentrations and 20% (95% CI: 10–31%) increase in PFNA concentrations as compared to less frequent consumption of seafood and fish. The same trend was observed for PFOA and PFHxS but not statistically significant. Consumption of eggs at least 2 times per week was associated with 11% (95% CI: 2–22%) and 14% (95% CI: 2–27%) increase in PFOS and PFNA concentrations, respectively, as compared to less frequent consumption of eggs. Significantly higher PFOS concentrations were observed for participants consuming offal (14% (95% CI: 3–26%)), the same trend was observed for the other PFAS but not statistically significant. Local food consumption at least 2 times per week was associated with 40% (95% CI: 19–64%) increase in PFOS levels as compared to those consuming local food less frequently. Conclusion This work provides information about current levels of PFAS in European teenagers and potential dietary sources of exposure to PFAS in European teenagers. These results can be of use for targeted monitoring of PFAS in food.
Within the European Human Biomonitoring (HBM) Initiative HBM4EU we derived HBM indicators that were designed to help answering key policy questions and support chemical policies. The result indicators convey information on chemicals exposure of different age groups, sexes, geographical regions and time points by comparing median exposure values. If differences are observed for one group or the other, policy measures or risk management options can be implemented. Impact indicators support health risk assessment by comparing exposure values with health-based guidance values, such as human biomonitoring guidance values (HBM-GVs). In general, the indicators should be designed to translate complex scientific information into short and clear messages and make it accessible to policy makers but also to a broader audience such as stakeholders (e.g. NGO's), other scientists and the general public. Based on harmonized data from the HBM4EU Aligned Studies (2014–2021), the usefulness of our indicators was demonstrated for the age group children (6–11 years), using two case examples: one phthalate (Diisobutyl phthalate: DiBP) and one non-phthalate substitute (Di-isononyl cyclohexane-1,2- dicarboxylate: DINCH). For the comparison of age groups, these were compared to data for teenagers (12–18 years), and time periods were compared using data from the DEMOCOPHES project (2011–2012). Our result indicators proved to be suitable for demonstrating the effectiveness of policy measures for DiBP and the need of continuous monitoring for DINCH. They showed similar exposure for boys and girls, indicating that there is no need for gender focused interventions and/or no indication of sex-specific exposure patterns. They created a basis for a targeted approach by highlighting relevant geographical differences in internal exposure. An adequate data basis is essential for revealing differences for all indicators. This was particularly evident in our studies on the indicators on age differences. The impact indicator revealed that health risks based on exposure to DiBP cannot be excluded. This is an indication or flag for risk managers and policy makers that exposure to DiBP still is a relevant health issue. HBM indicators derived within HBM4EU are a valuable and important complement to existing indicator lists in the context of environment and health. Their applicability, current shortcomings and solution strategies are outlined.
Many legacy and emerging flame retardants (FRs) have adverse human and environmental health effects. This study reports legacy and emerging FRs in children from nine European countries from the HBM4EU aligned studies. Studies from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Norway conducted between 2014 and 2021 provided data on FRs in blood and urine from 2136 children. All samples were collected and analyzed in alignment with the HBM4EU protocols. Ten halogenated FRs were quantified in blood, and four organophosphate flame retardants (OPFR) metabolites quantified in urine. Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) and decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) were infrequently detected (<16% of samples). BDE-47 was quantified in blood from Greece, France, and Norway, with France (0.36 ng/g lipid) having the highest concentrations. BDE-153 and -209 were detected in <40% of samples. Dechlorane Plus (DP) was quantified in blood from four countries, with notably high median concentrations of 16 ng/g lipid in Slovenian children. OPFR metabolites had a higher detection frequency than other halogenated FRs. Diphenyl phosphate (DPHP) was quantified in 99% of samples across 8 countries at levels ∼5 times higher than other OPFR metabolites (highest median in Slovenia of 2.43 ng/g lipid). FR concentrations were associated with lifestyle factors such as cleaning frequency, employment status of the father of the household, and renovation status of the house, among others. The concentrations of BDE-47 in children from this study were similar to or lower than FRs found in adult matrices in previous studies, suggesting lower recent exposure and effectiveness of PBDE restrictions.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are a highly persistent, mobile, and bioaccumulative class of chemicals, of which emissions into the environment result in long-lasting contamination with high probability for causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. Within the European Biomonitoring Initiative HBM4EU, samples and data were collected in a harmonized way from human biomonitoring (HBM) studies in Europe to derive current exposure data across a geographic spread. We performed mixture risk assessments based on recent internal exposure data of PFASs in European teenagers generated in the HBM4EU Aligned Studies (dataset with N = 1957, sampling years 2014–2021). Mixture risk assessments were performed based on three hazard-based approaches: the Hazard Index (HI) approach, the sum value approach as used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Relative Potency Factor (RPF) approach. The HI approach resulted in the highest risk estimates, followed by the RPF approach and the sum value approach. The assessments indicate that PFAS exposure may result in a health risk in a considerable fraction of individuals in the HBM4EU teenager study sample, thereby confirming the conclusion drawn in the recent EFSA scientific opinion. This study underlines that HBM data are of added value in assessing the health risks of aggregate and cumulative exposure to PFASs, as such data are able to reflect exposure from different sources and via different routes.
The textiles production and consumption system is a priority product-value chain for the European Commission in its 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan. The Action Plan foresees a European Union strategy for sustainable textiles in a circular economy with the aim of creating markets for sustainable and circular textile products, services, and business models. The European Environment Agency (EEA) and its Topic Center on Waste and Materials in a Green Economy (ETC/WMGE) have shown that consumption of clothing, footwear, and household textiles in Europe is on average the fourth highest category of environmental and climate impacts from a consumption perspective and from a vantage point that considers the entire life cycle. The fashion industry is responsible for more than 60% of total textiles used and clothing is expected to remain the largest application of textiles in the future. To enable a sustainable and circular textiles system, a transformation of fashion production and consumption is needed. This transformation requires innovation in business-model design, technology, and social practices through the adoption of specific policy making, education, and behavioral change enablers. In this Brief Report, we present a framework to map and advance the implementation and scaling of circular business models. This is illustrated by exploring four different circular business-model approaches for fashion and textiles, including models based on product durability; access models based on renting, leasing, and sharing; garment collection and resale; and recycling and reuse of materials. For each business-model type, we discuss enablers based on technical and social innovations and policy, behavioral change, and education.
Background Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction. A fast diagnosis is crucial for patient management. Proteins that are synthesized during the inflammatory response can be used as biomarkers, helping in a rapid clinical assessment or an early diagnosis of infection. The aim of this study was to identify biomarkers of inflammation for the diagnosis and prognosis of infection in patients with suspected sepsis. Methods In total 406 episodes were included in a prospective cohort study. Plasma was collected from all patients with suspected sepsis, for whom blood cultures were drawn, in the emergency department (ED), the department of infectious diseases, or the haemodialysis unit on the first day of a new episode. Samples were analysed using a 92-plex proteomic panel based on a proximity extension assay with oligonucleotide-labelled antibody probe pairs (OLink, Uppsala, Sweden). Supervised and unsupervised differential expression analyses and pathway enrichment analyses were performed to search for inflammatory proteins that were different between patients with viral or bacterial sepsis and between patients with worse or less severe outcome. Results Supervised differential expression analysis revealed 21 proteins that were significantly lower in circulation of patients with viral infections compared to patients with bacterial infections. More strongly, higher expression levels were observed for 38 proteins in patients with high SOFA scores (> 4), and for 21 proteins in patients with worse outcome. These proteins are mostly involved in pathways known to be activated early in the inflammatory response. Unsupervised, hierarchical clustering confirmed that inflammatory response was more strongly related to disease severity than to aetiology. Conclusion Several differentially expressed inflammatory proteins were identified that could be used as biomarkers for sepsis. These proteins are mostly related to disease severity. Within the setting of an emergency department, they could be used for outcome prediction, patient monitoring, and directing diagnostics. Trail registration number: clinicaltrial.gov identifier NCT03841162.
The low environmental impact of earth – or soil – materials makes them interesting alternatives to lower CO2 emissions from the construction sector. Nevertheless, since they are often stabilized with Portland cement, the improvements in technical performance come at an environmental cost. In this paper, we revisit a vernacular stabilization technique to formulate a trass-gypsum-lime binder aiming at increasing strength and reducing environmental impact. To do so, we tailor the binder reaction product assemblage and make use of local low-footprint raw materials. The increase in the trass content in the binder – at the expense of the content of gypsum hemihydrate – resulted in improved hydrated phase assemblage, i.e., ettringite, C-A-S-H, higher compressive strength, and lower carbon footprint. An additional strength gain was obtained by adding a low sucrose dosage to the binder, which ultimately resulted in an optimized strength/impact relation. This approach offers a new perspective on the engineering of binders for earth-based construction.
Heat stress is an important threat for human health and urban areas are affected at higher rates compared to rural environments. Additionally, climate change will increase the vulnerability towards urban heat stress in the future. Current high-resolution urban heat stress assessments are limited in time and space due to the high computational costs. In this paper, the UrbClim numerical model is used to simulate urban heat accurately at a fast rate and high spatial resolution for the cities of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, South Africa. Using detailed terrain information, (future) urban heat stress assessments are provided at 30 m resolution for both city agglomerations, while meter-scale simulations are executed for a selection of neighborhoods. These model simulations are evaluated using an extensive monitoring campaign in which the local community was heavily engaged. Distinct spatial differences in the urban heat island effect are observed, with greatest heat stress in areas with high building densities and low vegetation numbers. These areas are often characterized by lower socio-economic living conditions. The meter-scale analysis further shows the importance of shade provided by vegetation to lower heat stress in both present and future climate. These assessments offer assistance in the design of climate-resilient urban planning strategies.
Aqueous organic redox-flow batteries (AORFBs) are an emerging technological solution in the field of grid-scale energy storage, owing to their long lifetime, safety, chemical flexibility, potentially low costs and environmental friendliness. Membranes are a crucial component of the battery as they affect the ohmic resistance and the power density of the cells, as well as the depth-of-discharge and the lifetime and thus, crucially affect the levelised cost of storage of the battery. Herein, we provide a critical discussion of the state-of-the-art literature on membranes for AORFBs, including a summary on the theories used to model the transport of ions and active species through the membrane, as well as a compilation of experimental correlations between various membrane properties and cell performance. Adequate strategies to further improve the performance and lower the cost of AORFBs by employing and designing appropriate membranes are highlighted. Finally, the remaining challenges are summarized and perspectives on future research directions for developing appropriate and low-cost membranes for AORFBs are outlined.
The occurrence of litter in natural areas is nowadays one of the major environmental challenges. The uncontrolled dumping of solid waste in nature not only threatens wildlife on land and in water, but also constitutes a serious threat to human health. The detection and monitoring of areas affected by litter pollution is thus of utmost importance, as it allows for the cleaning of these areas and guides public authorities in defining mitigation measures. Among the methods used to spot littered areas, aerial surveillance stands out as a valuable alternative as it allows for the detection of relatively small such regions while covering a relatively large area in a short timeframe. In this study, remotely piloted aircraft systems equipped with multispectral cameras are deployed over littered areas with the ultimate goal of obtaining classification maps based on spectral characteristics. Our approach employs classification algorithms based on random forest approaches in order to distinguish between four classes of natural land cover types and five litter classes. The obtained results show that the detection of various litter types is feasible in the proposed scenario and the employed machine learning algorithms achieve accuracies superior to 85% for all classes in test data. The study further explores sources of errors, the effect of spatial resolution on the retrieved maps and the applicability of the designed algorithm to floating litter detection.
Acidogenic fermentation of chicken manure (CM) for production and recovery of volatile fatty acids (VFA) is an interesting biological waste-to-value approach compared to benchmark organic waste management strategies. Considering the wide range of high value applications of VFA, a semi-continuous immersed anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) was applied to boost VFA productivity and yield, while reducing downstream processing stages assisting the recovery of VFA. In this regard, the effect of parameters such as pH and organic loading rates (OLR) on the overall bioconversion and filtration performance was investigated. Thermal-shocked CM was applied both as inoculum and substrate. A very high VFA yield (0.90 g-VFA/g-VS) was obtained in the treatment with no pH control (~8.2) at an OLR of 2 g-VS/(L·d), presenting 24% higher yield compared to that of the controlled pH. Batch assays further demonstrated the enhanced hydrolysis and acidogenesis activities at weak alkaline conditions. A long-term (78 days) fermentation and filtration was successfully performed, where stable membrane filtration performance was experienced for about 50 days under high-solid (suspended solid of 37-45 g/L) and high flux (20 L/(m 2 ·h)) conditions. Results suggest that AnMBR of CM is a feasible and promising process for VFA production and recovery.
This paper describes the methods used to produce accounts for the recreational value of Natura 2000 areas in Flanders, Belgium. First, a biophysical account of recreation supply and demand is compiled and mapped. Demand is based on data for green visits per year per inhabitant and covers both recreation and nature-based tourism. It distinguishes local walking trips, local cycling, recreation trips with pre-transport and visits by tourists. The number of green visits is based on a combination of yearly statistics (for tourism, day trips) and irregular surveys (for local visits). The supply account is based on modelling predicted visits. The annual visits per inhabitant are attributed to ecosystems using a green visit prediction model that uses the extent and condition accounts related to availability of green-blue areas, accessibility, the attractive potential of landscapes for informal recreation (extent and condition accounts), residence and distance decay functions for different recreation types. Potential destinations include a wide range of green infrastructure, such as parks, forests, natural and agricultural areas and blue spaces (waterside and coastal natural areas). The attractiveness of landscapes is mainly based on an empirical study (choice experiment) in Flanders on people’s preferences for landscape features complemented by evidence from literature. The monetary accounts are preliminary, as there are unsufficient data available for Flanders to estimate the total value for the wide range of recreation types (from local walking and biking to tourism). Especially, data are missing to model travel and time costs for local visits (walking and biking), that account for a large share of total visits in Flanders. It should be noted that, for most visits, apart from nature-based tourism, valuation cannot be based on income fees or parking costs because, in Flanders, visits and parking are free. As unsufficient data are avaible to estimate travel and time costs in detail, we used Flemish data on average expenditure per visit per recreational type as a proxy. We discuss the limits of this preliminary approach and suggest further steps. In the results session, we discuss the implementation of the model to estimate the predicted visits to parts of the Natura2000 areas in Flanders in 2016 and 2018. As different land-uses are strongly interwoven in Flanders, these areas include a wide range of different land-uses and also areas close to residence used for local walking and biking. The differences between 2016 and 2018 illustrate how the model of predicted visits allows us to cope with land-use changes and improved quality and attractiveness of the landscapes in Natura2000 areas.
In recent years, fast fashion has boosted global production and consumption, decreasing the lifespans of garments and increasing volumes of discarded textiles which are neither reusable or recyclable. Consequently, multiple visions and strategies regarding circular fashion have been developed, addressing a broad range of features pertaining to a potential circular fashion system. Most remain vague about concrete ambitions and policy measures. However, the design of transition pathways involves a good understanding of the policy instruments among stakeholders that operate in a globalized industry with complex value chains. In this study, we investigate stake-holder support for policy instruments that could contribute towards a circular and sustainable fashion system. We identify 30 aspects of a circular fashion system, based on a screening of visions and strategies published by supranational bodies, NGOs, and sectoral organizations. Then, we present survey and focus group results, displaying broad stakeholder support for government intervention, particularly mandatory regulations. A plausible explanation is the prisoner's dilemma most stake-holders face regarding global value chains, indicating the need for a more level playing field. We identify and address the differences between stakeholder preferences and conclude that mandatory regulations appear to be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a transition towards a circular fashion system.
Lignin is a promising biopolymer to serve as a sustainable resource for a multitude of applications (e.g., thermoset materials, production of bulk chemicals) thereby substituting fossil-based carbon sources. In this work, the reductive depolymerization of Kraft lignin (KL) was studied in ethanol/water aided by formic acid (FA) as the way forward to valorize lignin. The effect of various process conditions was elucidated using ³¹P-NMR, pH, GPC, CHNSO, GC–MS and 2D-LC analyses. It is found that the addition of a small amount of FA (3.6 vol%) is beneficial for obtaining smaller lignin fragments with more phenolic OH (PhOH) functionalities upon depolymerization at 250 °C for 8 h. Besides, a higher FA concentration causes acid catalyzed lignin repolymerization and a longer reaction time results in only a limited reduction in molecular weight of the obtained lignin fragments. The addition of a supported Pd catalyst leads to a more pronounced depolymerization (smaller lignin fragments with more PhOH functionalities) as well as a stronger decrease in oxygen and sulfur content. Furthermore, several experiments and multiple analysis techniques support the hypothesis that FA acts as H2 donor under the investigated conditions in this study. In conclusion, KL (MW ~ 16,436 g mol⁻¹ and 3.31 mmol g⁻¹ PhOH) was successfully depolymerized into a low molecular weight lignin (MW ~ 3250 g mol⁻¹) with more PhOH functionalities (5.29 mmol g⁻¹). Graphical Abstract
In this paper, a transmission-distribution systems flexibility market is introduced, in which system operators (SOs) jointly procure flexibility from different systems to meet their needs (balancing and congestion management) using a common market. This common market is, then, formulated as a cooperative game aiming at identifying a stable and efficient split of costs of the jointly procured flexibility among the participating SOs to incentivize their cooperation. The non-emptiness of the core of this game is then mathematically proven, implying the stability of the game and the naturally-arising incentive for cooperation among the SOs. Several cost allocation mechanisms are then introduced, while characterizing their mathematical properties. A case study is then presented, considering an interconnected system composed of the IEEE 14-bus transmission system and the Matpower 18-bus, 69-bus, and 141-bus distributions systems. The numerical results showcase the cooperation-induced reduction in system-wide flexibility procurement costs, and identify the varying costs borne by the different SOs under different cost allocations methods.
The traditional deterministic day-ahead (DA) market clearing does not accommodate the uncertainty from variable renewable energy sources, resulting in an increasing activation of expensive reserves and curtailment events. Robust optimization (RO) has been proposed to mitigate this uncertainty. However, as RO considers worst-case scenarios, it results in highly conservative solutions. This paper proposes a light robust (LR) DA market clearing mechanism to address these shortcomings, controlling the trade-off between robustness and economic efficiency. This mechanism integrates the uncertainty from renewables in its formulation and allows the derivation of coherent market prices. The optimal bidding strategy of the stochastic participants is mathematically derived, while considering the expectation on the system imbalance. A comparison with the deterministic formulation proves that stochastic producers can economically benefit from the proposed mechanism, encouraging their participation. The derived analytical results are corroborated by numerical results from a case study based on the IEEE 24-node test system.
This study analyses the potential environmental impacts of the use of tire rubber residue (TRR) and rice husk ash (RHA) for the production of concrete slabs in Brazil, to support decision-making regarding management alternatives for TRR and RHA. Three scenarios were assessed: (1) slab production without inclusion of TRR or RHA (discarded in landfills); (2) slab production with incorporation of TRR alone; and (3) slab production with incorporation of TRR and RHA. The impact assessment based on the ReCiPe 2016 method showed that Scenario 3 had the lowest environmental impacts and Scenario 1 had the highest impacts.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widespread pollutants that may impact youth adiposity patterns. We investigated cross-sectional associations between PFAS and body mass index (BMI) in teenagers/adolescents across nine European countries within the Human Biomonitoring for Europe (HBM4EU) initiative. We used data from 1957 teenagers (12–18 yrs) that were part of the HBM4EU aligned studies, consisting of nine HBM studies (NEBII, Norway; Riksmaten Adolescents 2016–17, Sweden; PCB cohort (follow-up), Slovakia; SLO CRP, Slovenia; CROME, Greece; BEA, Spain; ESTEBAN, France; FLEHS IV, Belgium; GerES V-sub, Germany). Twelve PFAS were measured in blood, whilst weight and height were measured by field nurse/physician or self-reported in questionnaires. We assessed associations between PFAS and age- and sex-adjusted BMI z-scores using linear and logistic regression adjusted for potential confounders. Random-effects meta-analysis and mixed effects models were used to pool studies. We assessed mixture effects using molar sums of exposure biomarkers with toxicological/structural similarities and quantile g-computation. In all studies, the highest concentrations of PFAS were PFOS (medians ranging from 1.34 to 2.79 μg/L). There was a tendency for negative associations with BMI z-scores for all PFAS (except for PFHxS and PFHpS), which was borderline significant for the molar sum of [PFOA and PFNA] and significant for single PFOA [β-coefficient (95% CI) per interquartile range fold change = −0.06 (−0.17, 0.00) and −0.08 (−0.15, −0.01), respectively]. Mixture assessment indicated similar negative associations of the total mixture of [PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS and PFOS] with BMI z-score, but not all compounds showed associations in the same direction: whilst [PFOA, PFNA and PFOS] were negatively associated, [PFHxS] associated positively with BMI z-score. Our results indicated a tendency for associations of relatively low PFAS concentrations with lower BMI in European teenagers. More prospective research is needed to investigate this potential relationship and its implications for health later in life.
Several trials have attempted to identify sources of inter-laboratory variability in comet assay results, aiming at achieving more equal responses. Ionizing radiation induces a defined level of DNA single-strand breaks (per dose/base pairs) and is used as a reference when comparing comet results but relies on accurately determined radiation doses. In this ring test we studied the significance of dose calibrations and comet assay protocol differences, with the object of identifying causes of variability and how to deal with them. Eight participating laboratories, using either x-ray or gamma radiation units, measured dose rates using alanine pellet dosimeters that were subsequently sent to a specialised laboratory for analysis. We found substantial deviations between calibrated and nominal (uncalibrated) dose rates, with up to 46 % difference comparing highest and lowest values. Three dosimetry systems were employed in some laboratories: thermoluminescence detectors and two aqueous chemical dosimeters. Fricke’s and Benzoic Acid dosimetry solutions gave reliable quantitative dose estimations using local equipment. Mononuclear cells from fresh human blood or mammalian cell lines were irradiated locally with calibrated (alanine) radiation doses and analysed for DNA damage using a standardised comet assay protocol and a lab-specific protocol. The dose response of eight laboratories, calculated against calibrated radiation doses, was linear with slope variance CV=29 % with the lab-specific protocol, reduced to CV=16 % with the standard protocol. Variation between laboratories indicate post-irradiation repair differences. Intra-laboratory variation was very low judging from the dose-response of 8 donors (CV=4 %). Electrophoresis conditions were different in the lab-specific protocols explaining some dose-response variations which were reduced by systematic corrections for electrophoresis conditions. The study shows that comet assay data obtained in different laboratories can be compared quantitatively using calibrated radiation doses and that systematic corrections for electrophoresis conditions are useful.
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