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Wissen, was drin ist.


May 2017

• Lower Saxony Votes on Bills to Improve
   Water Quality

• Mycotoxins Series: Patulin
• Environmental Contaminants Series: PCB
• Future Day at the GBA Laboratory Group


Dear Readers,

what are the latest developments in the analytical market? In addition to the draft laws for the improvement of water quality im Lower Saxony, we keep other current and exciting food and environmental themes ready for you.

Enjoy reading!
Your GBA Laboratory Group 


Lower Saxony Votes on Bills to Improve Water Quality

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

On May 9th 2017, the state government of Lower Saxony voted to introduce new bills to the German  parliament with the goal of improving the quality of groundwater and surface waters and preserving biodiversity. With the amend­ments to the Lower Saxony Water Law (NWG) and to the Lower Saxony Imple­mentation Law for the German Nature Conservation Act (NAGBNatSchG), the building blocks have been laid for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the country’s nature conservation strategy.[1]

The water conservation zones are designed to prevent the state of the water­bodies from deteriorating even further. At the moment, over 95% of all surface waters in Germany are not in good condition. On over half of the land area in Germany, there is too much nitrate in the groundwater. Because of the devia­tion from the nationwide ruling on protective distances enacted by the previous administration, the water quality of rivers and streams was further exacerbated. There will be exception clauses for regions that have some tightly packed drain­age ditches (e.g. Wesermarsch).[2]

The water conservation zones should have a width of 5 meters from all waterbo­dies. In the future, the nutrient content should only be governed by the recently amended national law. In this law, a distance of four meters is stipulated, five meters on slopes. If equipment is used that has boundary distribution capabili­ties, then the distances can be reduced. A green strip, which must remain un­treated, should be held at a distance of at least one meter to the waterbody. The previous approach, which generally prohibited the usage of nutrients on the conservation strips, has been abandoned in order to implement the new law. The water protection agencies can enact additional measures for the water con­servation zones to maintain or reduce the nutrient contamination and may also allow exceptions.[1]

With the amendment to the Lower Saxony Implementation Law, the regulations for implementing the German Nature Conservation Act (NAGBNatSchG) have been strengthened. There are plans for an array of measures to facilitate the administrative efforts of the water protection agencies. Testing will take place in the context of water body inspections or while undertaking protective measures for flood zones. Furthermore, geoinformation systems will be used for random sample testing. The conditions pertaining to fertilizer and pesticide law will be inspected by the newly restructured fertilizer agency. Violations could be signifi­cantly more expensive under the new law as they had been previously. Compa­ny inspections in areas with high nitrate values will be continued. However, it remains unclear whether current violation procedures can be averted with the new fertilizer law. Further legal measures may potentially have to be planned.[1]

If you have any questions about this or other topics in the field of environmental or food analysis, then please get in touch with your individual account manager at the GBA Laboratory Group or:

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

[1]ßt-gesetzentwuerfe-zur-aenderung-des-niedersaechsischen-wasser--und-naturschutzrechts-153751.html, Accessed on 10 May 2017
[2], Accessed on 10 May 2017


Mycotoxins Series: Patulin

by Julia Bartels, GBA Laboratory Group

Patulin is a secondary metabolite that is naturally produced by several kinds of storage molds from the genera Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Byssochlamis. Peni­cillium expansum is one of the most significant producers of patulin. Patulin can occur in various plant-based foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables, and grains. The main source of human intake, however, is rotting pomes, especially apples and apple products. A study of moldy and browning apples yielded the result that 40% of these apples contained patulin. In the affected areas, patulin could be detected in concentrations of 80 mg/kg. That means even relatively small amounts of contaminated apples could be enough to contaminate a large amount of apple juice with up to or even exceeding 50 µg/kg patulin. This con­tamination can be prevented by broadly cutting out the affected areas. In an investigation of rotting apples, it was determined that patulin does not diffuse from the affected area into the healthy fruit tissue, and that no further amounts of the toxin can be detected at a distance of more than 2 cm from the affected area. However, this particular quality is only valid for apples and not for other kinds of fruit. In other fruit, patulin may in fact diffuse into the healthy fruit tissue.[1,2]

Another interesting feature of patulin is its antibiotic effect. However, it is not possible to use it therapeutically, since patulin also displays toxicological effects. It is classified as genotoxic, but not as carcinogenic. It is also consi­dered a neurotoxin and can lead to nausea, vomiting, digestive problems, and gastritis. Nevertheless, the total adverse health effects of patulin on the Europe­an population are considered to be small in comparison to other mycotoxins. In the year 2000, the European Union Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) agreed on a provisional maximum tolerable daily intake (PMTDI) of 0.4 µg/kg. Then they monitored to what extent this intake value was utilized. The average con­sumption amounts among selected demographic groups were utilized for this purpose. The highest value emerging from these calculations was 0.066 µg/kg (for girls ages 4 to 6 with high consumption), which is significantly under the PMTDI. Even in the case of the Italian population, which consumes relatively large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, the study yielded a value of only 0,14 µg/kg.[1]

Despite the low utilization of the PMTDI, a maximum level for patulin was laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006.[3] Additionally, the European Commis­sion designed recommendations for companies in the apple-processing industry in order to prevent and minimize patulin contamination in apple juice and apple juice ingredients in other drinks. In these recommendations, they emphasize that removing rotten apples from the production process is very important for minimizing patulin contamination.[4]

The analysis of patulin has been an established part of the GBA Laboratory Group’s portfolio of analytical methods for many years. If you have any ques­tions about this or any other topic, then please get in touch with your individual contact at the GBA Laboratory Group or:

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Ms. Anika Prause
Tel: +49 (0)40 797172-0


[1], Accessed on 08 May 2017
[2], Accessed on 08 May 2017
[3], Accessed on 10 May 2017
[4], Accessed on 08 May 2017


Environmental Contaminant Series: Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB)

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) represent a group of 209 compounds, each consisting of a biphenyl backbone with 1 to 10 chlorine atoms, which replace the corresponding hydrogen atoms.

The IUPAC names, which derive from that, are so similar that the PCB nomen­clature was systematically numbered by K. Ballschmiter and M. Zell in the 1980s in order to facilitate classification. PCBs were first synthesized at the end of the 19th century and large-scale technical production began around 1930. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the hazardous toxic potential of this sub­stance group was fully recognized. It was not the acute toxicity, but rather the chronic toxicity that can occur through continual intake of the smallest amounts, which was the root cause of this. PCBs are stored in fat tissue in the body and can therefore also bioaccumulate in the food chain. More recent studies also differentiate between dioxin-like and non-dioxin-like PCBs. In the dioxin-like PCBs, both of the benzene rings are positioned on the same plane, as is the case with dioxins, which results in a similar spectrum of effects.[1]

In 1972, their production was restricted and PCBs were only utilized in closed systems (see below). In the year 1983, their production in Germany was discon­tinued and in 1989, the use of PCBs in Germany was fundamentally prohibited with only a few exceptions (earlier called the PCB Prohibition Ordinance, today regulated by the Hazardous Substances Ordinance and/or the Prohibited Che­micals Ordinance). The use of capacitors containing PCBs was banned in the year 2000; all PCBs and devices containing PCBs – with only few exceptions – had to be eliminated by Dec 31st 2010 (Prohibited Chemicals Ordinance, Sec­tion 13 of the Appendix to §1). Table 1 shows earlier areas of application for PCBs in Germany – divided according to open and closed systems.

Usage in Open Systems (29 %):
•  Lubricants, flame-retardant or plasticizer additive for coatings, paints,
    plastics, putties, and waxes
•  Cutting and drilling oil for metalwork, oils in gas turbines and vacuum pumps
•  Flame-retardant agent in the electronics industry
•  Flame retardant coating (chlorine-rubber coating) for woodfiber plates
•  Building materials with silicon for expansion joints, formwork
    oils for agriculture as carriers for insecticides and pesticides

Usage in Closed Systems (71 %):
•  Hydraulic fluids for lifting tools, high-pressure pumps, and automatic
    gearboxes in deep mining
•  Dielectric material in capacitors, insulating fluid and coolants in transformers

Until this point in time, 1.5 million tons of PCBs were produced worldwide and spread ubiquitously due to their usage and stability. There are two different paths of emission into the environment. On the one hand, there are PCBs emitted by open systems into the air. On the other hand, PCB emissions from closed system applications can only occur if those systems are opened. The emission of PCBs was able to be reduced by approximately 86 % since their usage was banned.[2]

Since PCBs are considered long-lasting pollutants that can accumulate in the environment as well as in humans and other animals, they are classified as “POPs” (persistent organic pollutants) and were thus banned worldwide in ac­cordance with the Stockholm Convention of May 22nd, 2001. The convention went into effect in 2004 and prohibits the production of PCBs and stipulates the elimination of substances containing PCBs by the year 2028. The European Regulation (EC) No. 850/2004 adopted this basic demand and more precisely defined what it means to dispose of these substances in an appropriate man­ner.[3]

In Germany, mainly the following procedures are currently taken into consi­deration for disposing of waste containing PCBs.

• Subsurface deposit (underground landfill)
• Surface landfill
• Thermal treatment (special incineration facilities)

Before disposal, however, it is necessary to determine the PCB, which could be present either in a gaseous, liquid, or solid matrix. For the contamination of soil material in Germany, the German Regulation for Soil Protection and Contamina­ted Sites (BBodSchV) can be consulted.[4] In this regulation, 6 PCB congeners – PCB -28, -52, -101, -138, -153, -180 – are defined for the determination of the PCB contamination. Additionally, classification can be conducted according to the technical rules for soil stated in LAGA M 20 or the German Landfill Ordinan­ce.[5] When determining their landfill class, PCB -118 is also taken into conside­ration, which makes a total of 7 PCB congeners.[6]

The GBA Laboratory Group has been analyzing PCBs in solid materials, water, biota, and air samples for many years. The list of analytes that are tested in the various divisions of GBA – Environment, Food, Pharmaceuticals, and Consumer Goods – is continuously being updated and expanded in order to meet the la­test requirements, so we can remain your competent partner for these matters. If you have any questions about this or any other topic, we will gladly assist you.

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

[1] gefahrstoffe/pcb.htm,, Accessed on 11 May 2017  
, Accessed on 11 May 2017
[3], Accessed on 11 May 2017
[4], Accessed on 11 May 2017
[5]; from 13 April 2017, Accessed on 11 May 2017
[6], Accessed on 11 May 2017


Future Day at the GBA Laboratory Group

by Sabine Nest, GBA Laboratory Group

On April 27th, GBA Laboratory Group once again held its annual “Future Day” event!

Our Training Coordinator, Ms. Mailin Dorn, welcomed 17 school children of va­rious ages to the GBA Laboratory Group’s facilities in Hamburg. After getting to know one another, they were shown the individual departments as well as the analyses performed there. Afterwards began the most exciting part that every­one was looking forward to: the students were allowed to get hands-on expe­rience and conduct analyses. They started with a cereal sample. The task was to determine the composition (the portion of fruit, chocolate, etc.). Their second task was to determine the water hardness using their own water samples they had brought with them. The day was rounded off with a quiz where the students could win cool prizes with the knowledge they gained.

Once again, it was a nice experience for the GBA Laboratory Group to realize that there is great interest in our work even among the youth. That’s why we are once again offering free spots for our Future Day 2018 for an “Insight into the Lab Routine.”

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