Toxicity and Ecological Risk Assessment of “Contaminants of Emerging Concern” in the Marine Environment


Prato Ermelinda Prato

Ermelinda Prato

National Research Council, Water Research Institute (IRSA-CNR), Taranto, Italy

Biandolino Francesca Biandolino

Francesca Biandolino

National Research Council, Water Research Institute (IRSA-CNR), Taranto, Italy

Parlapiano Isabella Parlapiano

Isabella Parlapiano

National Research Council, Water Research Institute (IRSA-CNR), Taranto, Italy

Grattagliano Asia Grattagliano

Asia Grattagliano

Department of Chemical Sciences and Technologies, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Roma, Italy


Aquatic environments are chronically subjected to a most of anthropogenic contaminants by various point and diffuse industrial, agricultural and urban sources. A number of hazardous chemicals (e.g. as heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, surfactants) and contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) (e.g., nanoparticles, pharmaceuticals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, pesticides, personal care products, micro(nano)plastics, rare earth elements) reach the aquatic environment. Based on their persistence, bioavailability, mobility and distribution into the different aquatic compartments (water column, sediment and biota), they have the potential to travel for long distances and periods of time with detrimental effect on structure and functioning of ecosystems.

Due to the growing demand of novel industrial and commercial products, a continuous stream of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) enters our environment. CECs receive less attention in conventional environmental management and are generally not monitored in the environment, but have the ability to negatively influence the aquatic life and public health.

Therefore, the adverse effects of CECs and the risk of their transformation products on the ecosystems have become environmental research hotspots.

Although several studies in the field of ecotoxicology is growing in recent years, a scarcity of information on the CECs -associated toxicity effect on living organisms persists today, confirming the need for further exposure experiments, including bioassays on model organisms, either on molecular, cellular, organismal, population, community, and ecosystem levels.


Topics covered in this special session will consider:

  • Ecotoxicology in the analysis of ecological risk;
  • Advances in characterization and understanding of action mode of the environmental Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs);
  • Behavior of contaminants such as industrial products and wastes as well as nanomaterials, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal and house care products, plastics, food additives, etc.;
  • Ecotoxicity after long-term exposure with special attention to multigenerational effects;
  • Individuation of input sources of contaminants;
  • Biomonitoring of contaminants, ecological risks, and bioremediation;
  • Development of new methodologies for the remediation;
  • Regulation and policies for contaminants;
  • New analytical methods to assess environmental samples, allowing the detection and quantification of contaminants.


Ermelinda Prato, is researcher at the Water Research Institute of National Research Council (Italy), with experience in marine (eco)toxicology, toxicant effects on populations, factors modifying toxicity, water chemistry, bioaccumulation of organic and inorganic compounds in bioindicators species. Development of ecotoxicological indicators and indices to elaborate heterogeneous data, application of integrated, ecological risk assessment models. Toxicity Evaluation of heavy metals POPs and emerging pollutants on marine organisms, management, monitoring of coastal areas, and the potential transfer of pollutants and risk to human health. Aquaculture and biochemical quality of marine organisms.

Francesca Biandolino, has done research work from 2000 in Marine Ecotoxicology by using a battery of marine organisms as bioindicators of environmental and chemical stress. She investigates the acute, sub-chronic, and chronic effects of emerging contaminants (e.g. nanoparticles, microplastic, pesticides, pharmaceuticals) on the lethal and reproductive traits of marine organisms. She investigates the biochemical responses including the alteration of fatty acids and aminoacids composition. These studies are important for the potential transfer of xenobiotics with risk for human health, monitoring and management of coastal areas, activities of dredging, effect on marine biota of increasing water temperature because of global climate change, and sustainable aquaculture.
She participated in different working groups, contributing to the development of weighted criteria to elaborate heterogeneous data.

Isabella Parlapiano, is a researcher at Water Research Institute – National Research Council (IRSA-CNR), Taranto, Italy.
Her main research field focuses on Environmental risk assessment associated with several classes of toxicants including emerging contaminants (metal nanoparticles, microplastics, pharmaceuticals, pesticides), environmental matrices (sediments, porewater, elutriates), using bivalves, microalgae, crustaceans and echindermes as model organisms. Her ecotoxicological studies involve multiple and multi–level markers that combines endpoints of ecological relevance (e.g. acute, chronic, full life-cycle and transgenerational tests; embryonic development bioassays), including the effects of contaminants on the biochemical composition and quality of marine food.

Asia Grattagliano, her fields of interests are marine ecotoxicity and electrochemistry.
In particular her studies are focused on:

  • Determination and characterization of nutritional values (fatty acids, proteins, vitamins) of fishes or aquaculture products according to the environmental conditions and geographic site;
  • Evaluation of the impact of nanomaterials on the marine environment;
  • Devlopment of new portable devices for environmental prevention;
  • Synthesis of electroactive couple for the development of Redox Flow Batteries (RFB).