Jump to content

Finnish Environment Institute | Suomen ympäristökeskus | Finlands miljöcentral

sykefi header valkoinen

New methods for research of harmful substances

There is a constant demand for timely information about emerging substances that are harmful for the environment. Both information about their existence in nature as well as their effects on human health and the environment are needed. This information is used for environmental monitoring, product life-cycle assessment and risk assessment of new technologies. On the basis of this knowledge evaluations considering regulation and restriction needs are made.    

The laboratory of SYKE promotes the management of harmful substances by developing methods for concentration analysis and impact studies and by producing information about harmful substances and technologies for risk assessment studies. 

Our research concentrates onlegacy chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals and nanomaterials. Examples on the important research targets in Finland are heavy metal emissions from industry and acid sulfate soils and the chemical load from the waste water treatment plants (WWTP). In addition to aquatic environment, we study solid samples like sludge from the WWTPs and contaminated soils.

The tasks of our laboratory are:

  • Ecological risk assessment of harmful chemicals
  • Development, assessment and use of methods applicable for environmental risk assessment
  • Expert services to authorities and companies and intercomparison services


The approach used for risk assessment is dependent on the site. It is important to combine different approaches since there are no single approaches applicable to every situation. Challenging is especially to characterize mixture effects and evaluate long term, chronic effects in ecosystems.

Our selection of aquatic in vivo biotests include acute (e.g. survival) and chronic (e.g. growth, reproduction) endpoints as well as bioaccumulation to several species. Many of these tests are applicable also to soil and sludge extracts or sediment pore water testing. Our in vitro biotests on rainbow trout cell  study the effects of chemicals and extracts to cell viability, metabolism, damage and genotoxicity. We also measure animal behavior using a Multispecies Biomonitor (MFB) device that can be used for in situ testing of stress factors at field sites in cages.

In addition to biotests we use passive samplers, that can be used to concentrate many kind of contaminants from surface and ground water, sediment, sludge or soil. These samplers concentrate free, bioavailable contaminants and can be used to assess exposure more accurately and estimate from solid samples the fraction transferring within the water phase, e.g. in groundwater.

Mathematical models are common tools in ecotoxicology and they are used to describe bioaccumulation kinetics in single species and fate in food webs or environment. Environmental modelled concentrations can be validated with empirical observations and further combined with a knowledge on critical body burdens allowing effect assessment. Environmental concentrations can also be applied in hydrological transfer models able to include time steps and physical parameters in 1D – 3D type models. This modelling work is done in the cooperation with the Freshwater Centre of SYKE.

Lemna test.   MFR measurement, Talvivaara

Current projects

Emerging pollutants and harmful substances, metrology

  • Occurrence and effects of consumer chemicals and nanomaterials
  • Transport, fate and concentrations of organotin compounds in lake environments
  • Aquatic contaminants - Pathways, health risks and management Study of harmful substances from water with new measurement and evaluation methods
  • Application of Biotic Ligand Models to estimate bioavailable fraction and to monitor environmental quality standards of nickel and lead
  • Traceable measurements for monitoring critical pollutants under the European Water Framework Directive

Nanomaterials, nanotechnology

Effect of wastewater, impact assessment

  • Use of effect-based analysis for environmental impact assessment of waste water
  • Integrated effect and concentration profiling for the environmental risk assessment of waste water effluents Development and implementation of waste water toxicity assessment
  • Feasibility study of Whole Effluent Assessment as a monitoring and risk assessment method on the combined effects of harmful substances

Development of research- and analytical methods

  • Use of new ICT applications for benthic measurements in risk assessment of chemicals
  • Fast and cost-effective methods for the measurement of environmentally harmful compounds from wastewater
Published 2015-02-20 at 10:37, updated 2020-09-25 at 15:51

Target group: