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Keeping track of fragrances

Fragrances are added in a wide variety of consumer products – cosmetics, detergents, cleaning agents, and air fresheners. If uncompletely eliminated in wastewater treatment plants, they can end up in rivers and lakes. Companies are therefore required to perform an environmental risk assessment before fragrance compounds are used in final products. One important test parameter is the accumulation of substances in fish.
A new device developed at Eawag allows scientists to determine whether, and to what extent, fragrances in the environment are absorbed in fish without using animals. This is possible thanks to the use of a mirror-polished stainless steel chamber and a permeable membrane with a layer of intestinal fish cells. The cells indicate not only if fragrances enter the fish but as well to which extent and by which mechanisms. This research is based on a thesis by Hannah Schug, under the supervision of Kristin Schirmer, adjunct professor at EPFL at the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology (TOX).