Nina Wemken was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the 38th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) & 10th International PCB Workshop – DioXin, in Krakow, Poland. Here she tells us how she gained insight into new techniques that she can apply to her work, how she had the opportunity to network and make new contacts and the presentations she attended and gave.
‘During the conference I was able to gain insight into the new techniques I will be able to apply to my field and network with many knowledgeable people in the field. Their advice and guidance are already proving invaluable. I have made new contacts with different labs and university and expanded my network for future projects and potential jobs
‘The 38th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) – DIOXIN – took place in Krakow, Poland. It was conducted 6 days in parallel with the International PCB Workshop. It was my second DIOXIN conference and it was an extremely valuable experience. There was a vast range of different sessions including those on emerging analytical techniques on legacy and emerging persistent organic pollutants (POPs). In particular, presentations on emerging techniques for the separation of chlorinated paraffins were of great interest given the notoriety in difficulties achieving this for several decades.
‘On the day preceding the conference students were invited to present at the special student session “student symposium at DIOXIN 2018”, which was the first meeting of its kind. Students got the chance to present their work in a smaller environment and to meet each other. I was invited to chair one session by myself and to co-chair another one, which was a fantastic and very valuable experience. It was great to get to know other students and their work, as it is difficult to meet everyone during the week at the conference.
‘This year our project “ELEVATE” was able to contribute three platform presentations at the conference. The first talk was entitled “Concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water, indoor air and dust in Ireland: Implications for human exposure” was presented by Dr Daniel Drage on Monday 27th August. On Thursday, 27th August Dr Marie Coggins presented “Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in human breast milk collected from first time Irish mothers, 2016 – 2018 – ELEVATE” followed by my own talk on Thursday afternoon “An assessment of the exposure of the Irish population to selected brominated flame retardants via indoor air and dust”. It was fantastic to be able to present all these brand new data to world-leaders in the field and also to link the talks to each other.
‘Each day began with a 1-hour plenary, prior to several parallel oral sessions continued for the rest of the day. One of my personal favourite presentation was entitled “Legacy and novel brominated flame retardants in indoor dust in Melbourne, Australia: An assessment of human exposure” by TJ McGrath. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a full morning special session entitled “EFSA Risk Assessments of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Food and Feed” which was very popular by all conference attendees. They announced updated tolerable weekly intake values (TWIs) for perfluoro octane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluoro octanoic acid (PFOA) and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs). To the surprise of many delegates they presented a reduction in their previous 2008 estimate of PFOA by a factor of 2000, and a reduction in PCDD/F TWIs by a factor of 7.
‘The Thursday morning plenary was my favourite one of all the conferences visited so far by Richard Hull from the University of Central Lancashire (Preston). He discussed ‘the effect of fire retardants on smoke toxicity’ and explained that the flame retardants in the fire are so toxic that they will cause more harm than good in consumer products. It was extremely interesting to see how chemical flame retardants work in action and if they actually perform as they are supposed to when being added to the product.
‘Over 200 posters were presented at the symposium. During several exhibitions I was able to look around and talk to different researchers about their displayed work. It was difficult to say which was the best, but a particular highlight was one from the Irish State Lab, presented by Connor Noone and Margarete Houlilhan ‘An investigation of elevated dioxin levels in ovine livers in Ireland’; as well as one from Martin Sharkey ‘Persistent organic pollutants in Irish landfills: a nationwide assessment of BFRs and PFAS’.
‘Given the multitude of analytical, exposure and toxicology sessions over the duration of the conference, it was difficult to select favourites between all different categories. However, a few memorable presentations include: “Levels of persistent organic pollutants (POP) in human milk from first-time mothers in Uppsala, Sweden: temporal trends for the time period 1996-2016” (U. Friden); ”Determinants of prenatal exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances in the Slovak birth cohort” (L. Fábelová); “Assessment of the impact of breastfeeding duration on PCBs and PCDD/Fs body burdens using PBPK modelling” (M. Pruvost--Couvreur); and “Feeling the heat: Gulls as bioindicators of flame retardant emissions from UK landfill” (A. Tongue), the last of which won the Otto Hutzinger Student Award for most outstanding student presentation.
‘During the conference I was able to gain insight into the new techniques I will be able to apply to my field and network with many knowledgeable people in the field. Their advice and guidance are already proving invaluable. I have made new contacts with different labs and university and expanded my network for future projects and potential jobs. Great thanks to the SCI, who awarded me the Messel Travel Bursary to attend the conference.’
National University of Ireland Galway