FHNW/ETH, Switzerland

Karl Fent is professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, private docent at ETH Zurich and docent at the universities Zurich and Basel. For over 30 years his research is ....

devoted to understand adverse effects of anthropogenic chemicals in the aquatic and terrestrial environment. His research focuses on endocrine disrupters including UV-filters, pharmaceuticals and environmental steroids (progestins and glucocorticoids). His work spans a spectrum of different contaminants and approaches including chemical analysis, in vitro studies, effects on physiology, reproduction, transcription in fish but also molecular effects of pesticides in honey bees. His textbook “Ökotoxikologie” is the standard for university students and he published over 140 scientific papers and book chapters.



30 years of ecotoxicological research – some personal remarks

Karl Fent1,2

1 University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, School of Life Sciences, CH-4132 Muttenz, Switzerland

2 ETH Zürich, Department of Environmental Systems Science, CH-8092 Zürich

Ecotoxicology is an interdisciplinary science that has significantly developed over the last three decades. It spans a wide variety of topics, from fundamental research to environmental applications. The aim of this environmental science is to assess and understand adverse effects of pollutants and their environmental implications. This presentation will give a short overview of some of the ecotoxicological research that I have carried out with my coworkers and students over the last 30 years, with some remarks on current research activities.

Starting with organotins, our research was devoted to the effects of endocrine disrupters, mainly UV-filters, pharmaceuticals and natural and synthetic steroid hormones. Most of them share a critical property: they are persitent and bioaccumulative, and thus potentially hazardous. We focused on the aquatic environment, and, in the last few years, started to look at effects of pesticides in honey bees. Our research emphasized understanding important adverse effects and bioaccumulation of these contaminants, as well as casting the results in a broader context, including their environmental implications to set a basis for regulatory action.

As an interdisciplinary environmental science, ecotoxicology encompasses environmental chemistry, toxicology and ecology. As such, understanding the pollutant’s mechanisms of action is fundamental. We have strived to develop ecotoxicology as an environmental science by taking advantage of novel developments and techniques. In addition to assessing adverse effects of hazardous contaminants, we have aimed to open up new avenues of research. Among them are the transfer of transcriptional effects to physiology or the disregulation of circadian rhythms by contaminants. We identified the potentially hazardous nature of UV-filters and steroids, and the importance of the joint effects of chemical mixtures. I hope that some of our research has further developed ecotoxicology as an environmental science and had assisted in the prevention of hazardous chemicals from entering the environment.