Potentially high levels of chemical pollution in the EU+10 compared to the EU 15 Member States generate concern on the environmental status of the former. Especially contaminations in the agro-environment of the new EU MS may result in an increase of the overall human exposure in the enlarged EU. First attempts to collect concrete data on polychlorinated dioxins (PCDDs), -furans (PCDFs) and -biphenyls (PCBs), demonstrate that these concerns are not generally justified (1, 2).
Moreover, comparing status quo data may not always be the appropriate instrument to illustrate concrete needs for environment and health policy. An example: a currently high level of a pollutant obtained from a one-point measurement in a new MS may exceed the EU 15 standards. But for many compounds the levels may be on a clear downward trend because the technology from which the emission occurs is being phased out for economic reasons (e.g. inadequate combustion technologies in energy production and waste incineration), while the trend of the same chemical may be stable or even rising in the EU 15. In order to obtain an adequate picture of environmental pollution and the related exposure risks in the EU 25 it seems appropriate to consider also the time trends of pollutants, making sure that EU environmental policy is applied in an adequate and cost effective way on the situation in the new MS.
Scope and methodology
The scope of this study was to collect information about existing archives of environmental matrices that would allow - via appropriate chemical analyses – to obtain time trends of persistent chemical pollutants in the environment of the new MS and Candidate Countries. Like for PCDD/Fs, where only few laboratories in the new MS have the analytical infrastructure to execute the chemical analysis (2), this study shall provide the basis to stimulate scientific co-operation between new MS and EU- 15 institutions.
The execution of the project was conducted in the Inland and Marine Waters Unit of the Institute for Environment and Sustainability the frame of the Joint Research Centre Enlargement Action Ref. IES-J03 entitled Establish a CC-Wide Network to Assess Retrospective and Future Contamination Trends for Dioxins and Related Compounds. The project was led by Dr. Anton Kocan, Department of Toxic Organic Pollutants at the Slovak Medical University, Bratislava, Slovakia, who was hosted as a national expert at the JRC Dioxin laboratory at the IES from July 2004 to December 2004.
The initial focus was broader and included any kind of archives available (e.g. food, feed, etc.) that would provide environmental levels of target compounds. After a selection of potential partners (see annex 1 for contacted institutions), questionnaires regarding the availability of potential archived samples were addressed to institutions dealing with soil research and food processing (particularly canning factories). Replies were received from 13 new EU MS and CC; only archived soils were identified as potential sample sets to obtain appropriate time trends.