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Wissen, was drin ist.


March 2016

•  PAHs in Consumer Goods and Toys
•  Nanomaterials
•  Rare Earth Elements
•  Soil of the Year 2016
•  Management Change


Dear Readers,

welcome to the March edition of our newsletter. Also, this month for the first time our newsletter for the pharma­ceutical division will be published. If you are interested in issues concerning that field as well, then click here to subscribe. As always, we present you with topics from the fields of environmental and food analysis in this newsletter. 

Enjoy reading!
Your GBA Laboratory Group 


PAHs in Consumer Goods and Toys

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of organic compounds that are generated from the partial combustion of organic materials, e.g. in fossil fuels like wood, coal, or oil. If the temperature of the fire is not high enough or if there is not enough oxygen available, then the combustion of these materials will be incomplete. Even natural burning processes (e.g. forest fires, volcanic eruptions) also promote the release of PAHs into the environment.[1] Due to their ubiquitous distribution, there are maximum levels in many food products. However, it is not only their presence in food that poses a danger.[2] During the production of consumer goods (e.g. sporting equipment, clothing, wristwatches) and toys made of rubber and plastic, PAHs can also end up in the product through the usage of plasticizers, process oils and carbon black.[3] Because of their persistence, their detrimental health effects, and their worldwide pervasiveness, PAHs play a large role as pollutants.

In a risk assessment from the year 2010, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) revealed a concerning level of carcinogenic PAH conta­mination in numerous consumer goods. However, some products only demonstrated relatively low PAH-contents, thus showing that it is indeed possible to reduce the risk by utilizing low-PAH materials. Due to the carcino­genic effect of these substances, it was not possible to derive a safe dosage level, so consumer exposure to PAHs should be reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably viable. The European Commission (EU) took into account the BfR’s risk assessment in its decision on the limit values for PAHs and imple­mented this decision as a legally binding standard with their Commission Regulation (EU) No. 1272/2013. This led to the amendment of the parts of Annex XVII to Regulation (EC) 1907/2006 (REACH) that concern PAHs.[4]

The substances Benzo[a]pyrene, Benzo[e]pyrene, Benzo[a]anthracene, Chrysene, Benzo[b]fluoranthene, Benzo[j]fluoranthene, Benzo[k]fluoranthene, and Dibenzo[a,h]anthracene were classified as category 1B carcinogens, which denotes substances that are reasonably suspected to cause cancer in
humans.[3] The legal limit of 1 mg/kg should only be valid for components that come into direct contact with human skin or the oral cavity for a longer period or repeated shorter periods when used normally or in a reasonably foreseeable manner. The products affected by this are listed in Annex XVII No. 50, paragraph 6 of the REACH regulation. Among specialists, the stricter limits in toys are a particularly welcomed change. Toys and articles for infants and young children are prohibited if they contain PAH concentrations above 0.5 mg/kg in their accessible plastic or rubber parts. The limit values, which must be adhered to, have been valid since December 27th, 2015.[5]

For many years, the GBA Laboratory Group has been developing and validating methods for analyzing PAHs using GC-MSDs in a diverse range of matrices as part of our routine analysis. The developments and latest news on this topic will be continually monitored by the GBA Laboratory Group and we are gladly available to answer your further questions.

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Reiner Ranau
Goldtschmidtstraße 5
21073 Hamburg

[1] Umweltbundesamt: Polyzyklische aromatische Kohlenwasserstoffe – Umweltschädlich! Giftig! Unvermeidbar?, Accessed on November 2012
[2] Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR): Markersubstanzen für polyzyklische aromatische Kohlenwasserstoffe (PAK) zur Lebensmittelüberwachung, Stellungnahme Nr. 003/2010 Accessed on 02.Oktober 2009
[3], Accessed on 11.03.2016

[4] Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung; BfR-Empfehlung führt europaweit zur Beschränkung krebserzeugender PAK in Verbraucherprodukten, 04/2014, Accessed on 28.01.2014

[5] REACH-Verordnung,, Accessed on 11.03.2016


Nanomaterials: Risk Categories and Health Assessment

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

The term “nanotechnology” is a general term frequently used to describe research, processing, and production of structures and materials on a nano­meter scale. Due to the usage and combination of materials with nanostruc­tures, products can be provided with completely new characteristics and functions. So it must be assumed that their usage in all aspects of life will continue to expand and therefore also that their emission into the environment will signify a growing problem.[1]

Nanomaterials are divided into three types. In at least one dimension, they are smaller than 100 nanometers [nm] (1 nm = 0.000000001 m). To put that in perspective, on average, a hair is 50,000 nm in diameter.

The three types are:

•  Spherical structures (e.g. nanoparticles and fullerenes)
•  Fibrous structures (e.g. nanorods)
•  Extremly thin layers (e.g. nanoplates)

Nanoparticles are not only produced artificially, but can also exist as ultrafine dust from natural sources of burning (volcanic eruptions, forest fires, etc.). Nanoparticles can also be found in cigarette ash, exhaust, and welding fumes, among other things.

Nanomaterials that are specifically produced for technical applications are coming into focus. These primarily include lacquer, surface materials, packaging materials. Additionally, nanomaterials are starting to be used more prevalently in products closer to the consumer, such as textiles, cosmetics, shower gels, and toothpastes. Some of these products contribute to direct human exposure. Therefore, it is necessary to undertake an assessment of the health risks of nanomaterials. 

In addition to the special physical and chemical properties of a product with nanomaterials or its treated surfaces, these often contain properties that promote reactions. Releasing these substances and products into the environ­ment, as well as into a variety of paths to human exposure, presumably could represent a health risk in some cases, and therefore they must be further observed. Needless to say, their behavior in the human body is critical to assessing the health risks. For this assessment, not only is the amount of materials absorbed significant, but also their structure as well as their distribution and duration in the body.

The nanomaterials currently in use are composed of a manageable number of parent structures, however, due to the various combinations, as well as variations in size, shape, and surface, there is an almost limitless variety of materials. In the last 20 years, no correlation between the materials and the structures could be found that would establish functional mechanisms that are universally valid. Therefore, individual variations of nanomaterials are still being subjected to separate experimental tests and health risk assessments by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). For conventional chemi­cals, approaches to testing and modeling groups of nanomaterials are also being implemented and utilized for regulatory purposes. Yet, these are only known rudimentarily for nanomaterials.

Due to the sharply increasing production volume and variety of nanomaterials, it is absolutely necessary to develop categories of nanomaterials for risk assessment. In the context of the ERA-NET (European Research Area Network)[2], the EU has launched the ERA-NET SIINN program (Safe Implementation of Innovative Nanoscience and Nanotechnology)[3]. This EU program helps ensure that results from European research in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology are put into practice safely and quickly. Since December 2015, the NanoToxClass project has been dealing with the estab­lishment of strategies for grouping and classifying nanomaterials based on their toxicity in order to support risk assessments.[4] 

For the development of new analytical methods, it is our duty at the GBA Laboratory Group to monitor current issues and new topics in science. It goes without saying that we carefully watch the market and inform our readers. If you have questions about this topic or any other issues concerning environmental or food analysis, then please, get in touch with your contact person at the GBA Laboratory Group, or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Sven Steinhauer
phone: +49 (0)40 797172-0

[1]; Accessed on 11.05.2016

[2]; Accessed on 11.05.2016

[3]; Accessed on 11.05.2016

[4]; Accessed on 11.05.2016


Rare Earth Elements in Mollusks from German Rivers

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

Contrast agents containing gadolinium, used in medicine, pass through the water treatment steps in wastewater facilities almost entirely unimpeded and thus end up in our surface water.[1] Since other rare earth elements, in addition to gadolinium, can also be found in a wide variety of applications in our daily life (Newsletter NL 14-11), this raises the question of how the assessment of their potential accumulation in the environment and biological material should be carried out. In a study conducted by Jacobs University, Bremen, the elements lanthanum and samarium were investigated.[2] These elements are used in the production of catalysts for petroleum processing. Both of these high-tech metals were detected in selected areas in the Rhine River and in the shells of basket clams, thereby proving their bioavailability.[2] The extent to which there is an effect on organisms such as fish should be a part of further studies.

For years, the analysis of rare earth elements in different kinds of matrices using ICP-MS is part of the analytical portfolio at GBA Laboratory Group. If you have questions concerning this or other subjects of environmental analyses, please, contact your personal consultant at GBA Laboratory Group or:For years, the analysis of rare earth elements in different kinds of matrices using ICP-MS is part of the analytical portfolio at GBA Laboratory Group. If you have questions concerning this or other subjects of environmental analyses, please, contact your personal consultant at GBA Laboratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Mr. Ralf Murzen
Tel: +49 (0)4101 79 46 - 0

[1] Goullé J.P., Saussereau E., Mahieu L., Cellier D., Spiroux J., Guerbet M., Importance of  anthropogenic metals in hospital and urban wastewater: its significance for the  environment, Bull Environ Contam Toxicol., 2012, 89(6), 1220-24
[2] Merschel G., Bau M., Rare earth elements in the aragonitic shell of freshwater mussel  Corbicula fluminea and the bioavailability of anthropogenic lanthanum, samarium  and gadolinium in river water, Sci Total Environ., 2015, 533(4), 91-101


Soil of the Year 2016 – Groundwater Soil (Gleysol)

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

The soil of the year 2016 is the groundwater soil. Groundwater soils are soils that are formed by groundwater near the surface. According to the World Reference Base for Soil Resources, these are soils are categorized as gleysols. They are influenced by groundwater year-round and shape their surroundings as a significant factor.[1]

Certain characteristic soil profiles for gleysols arise from the groundwater fluctuations over the course of a year. Since the groundwater sinks in the summer, there are two characteristic areas in the soil profile. The upper horizons mostly consist of red-orange patches, which result from seasonal changes in the water saturation. Underneath, there is a gray or blue-colored horizon with constant groundwater. The red patches in the upper region form during the vegetation periods, in which plants withdraw increasing amounts of water from the soil. When there is a lack of groundwater, oxygen can penetrate the horizon, in turn oxidizing the iron and manganese that has been dissolved in the groundwater. This “rust” is deposited in the form of precipitation, primarily on the surfaces of pieces of soil sticking together. 

Gleysols make up about 10-15% of surfaces in Germany.[2] With the influx of groundwater, dissolved substances are introduced into the soils. Gleysols are thus often nutrient-rich soils and to a large extent provide habitats for rare plant and animal communities. The marsh orchid and the marsh hawksbeard are representative of an entire range of endangered species that are dependent on moist soil conditions. 

Aside from this, gleysols store large amounts of water and transfer it with a delay. Due to this delay, gleysols make an important contribution to flood-protection. Additionally, there is a tangible cooling function during dry periods, when the water evaporates from the soil.

The intense usage of surfaces for modern agricultural technology causes the groundwater level to sink, which changes the living conditions for microorga­nisms in the soil. The conditions for microorganisms that consume humus improve, resulting in severe losses of humus in the upper soils after the groundwater sinks. During the decomposition, additional carbon dioxide is generated, as well as other greenhouse gases. Sometimes, nitrates are also formed which end up in the groundwater. As is the case with all moist soils, gleysols react very sensitively to mechanical pressure for soil compacting. So, there are diverse risks related to the inappropriate usage of gleysols. Traditionally, conservational uses and management of gleysols include using them for grasslands or woodlands. Common types of trees for their use as woodlands are oaks, ashes, fluttering elms, hornbeams, and alders.

When gleysols are used as grasslands, the possibilities range from intensive grassland management, with 3-4 grass harvests per year, to extensive pastures for landscape conservation. In doing so, the goal is to maintain as natural a hydraulic balance as possible by largely avoiding drainage. Machines can only be used safely – in a way that is gentle on the soil – during the summer months in the dry state and when the soil can bear a sufficient load.

Naming one kind of soil as the “soil of the year” by the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) is just one way to increase awareness among the public about a more conscientious way of handling soil as a finite resource. The GBA Laboratory Group supports this action by passing on the information to our readers. If you have any questions about this or any other topics in environ­mental or food analysis, then please, contact your individual customer service representative at the GBA Laboratory Group, or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Sven Steinhauer
phone: +49 (0)40 797172-0

; Accessed on 15.01.2016
; Accessed on 15.01.2016


Management Change at the GBA Laboratory Group

Effective March 31st, 2016, Dr. Döllefeld will resign from the GBA management on his own volition. Since the beginning of 2012, he has been leading the di­vision for pharmaceutical analysis, which has grown strongly and now com­prises 170 employees at three locations. His main responsibilities were to further facilitate the established cooperation and further develop the individual synergies to the benefit of the wide-ranging customer base. He also promoted the founding and development of our Austrian joint venture in Vienna as the managing director of All Lab Services GmbH, which especially began to make a name for itself on the Austrian market for foodstuff and environmental analysis in 2015. He laid the foundation for further dynamic developments that we are expecting in our company. Dr. Döllefeld will maintain a connection to GBA and will keep supporting the company in a consulting role.

His colleagues in the management as well as the staff of the GBA Laboratory Group thank Dr. Döllefeld for his pleasant cooperation, his strategic vision, his special mediation abilities, and his affable manner. We wish him success and all the best in the fulfillment of his new professional opportunities.

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