Is this email not displayed properly? Then click here to switch to the Online-Version.

Wissen, was drin ist.


June/July 2017

• Disposal of Waste Containing HBCD -
   New Draft Bill

• Aluminium in Food
• Environmental Contaminants Series: PAHs
• Mycotoxins Series: Fumonisins


Dear Readers,

we take a break for the summer and will be back in August with the next newsletter issue. If you need further information, we are happy to assist you at any time, so please, send us an email at .

Enjoy reading!
Your GBA Laboratory Group 


Disposal of Waste Containing HBCD – New Draft Bill

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

On June 7, 2017, the Federal Cabinet passed the "Ordinance on Monitoring Non-Hazardous Wastes with Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the Amendment to the Waste Disposal Ordinance."[2,3] Within the last ten months, we previously reported on the ban on producing or placing products on the mar­ket that contain the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) in amounts exceeding 100 mg/kg (September 2016 Newsletter). In addition, it will no longer be allowed to recycle materials containing more than 1,000 mg/kg as of September 30th, 2016. Instead they should be destroyed by means of ther­mal treatment in household waste incineration plants – (mandatory destruction pursuant to Article 7 (2) of the POP Regulation (EC) No 850/2004).

The resultant bottlenecks in disposal and inflated costs of disposal finally led to a deferral of this rule (January 2017 Newsletter). To solve the problem, a one-year delay or moratorium was issued, which is valid until December 31st, 2017. During this time, the German Federal Government and states drafted the current bill.

Content of the Regulation:
• The POP Waste Monitoring Ordinance, as set out in Article 1, stipulates that certain POPs – those which are not classified as hazardous waste but still must be monitored – are required to be collected separately and may not be mixed. Furthermore, it mentions the requirements to prove that the processing is con­ducted properly and safely and the disposal is environmentally acceptable. Both the requirement to separate POPs and the prohibition of mixing them, as well as the burden of proof and registration, are based on the German recycling law.

• Basically acting as a “one-to-one” implementation of the respective EU law, the amendment to the German Waste Disposal Ordinance, which is contained in Article 2, limits the classification of waste containing POPs as hazardous was­tes only to waste containing the 16 POPs that are listed by the EU Com­mission Decision 2014/955/EU as hazardous waste, as soon as their POP con­tent exceeds the concentration limits laid down in Annex IV of the EU-POP Re­gulation.

• As a consequence of the provisions affected in Articles 1 and 2, Article 3 re­peals the amendment to the German Waste Dis­posal Ordinance (the end of the moratorium) before the date when it had been planned to take effect, January 1st, 2018. With regard to wastes containing HBCD, the moratorium, which had considerably reduced the effort to dispose of these wastes, has thus become permanent.[1]

In summary, on the one hand, the new regulation ensures that waste containing POPs will be collected separately, regardless of its classification as hazardous or not hazardous waste. On the other hand, these may be mixed within the corres­ponding waste management facilities, as was previously the case. Dis­posal may therefore be carried out together with other waste, but the way there must be clearly verified. With the obligation to register and verify, the waste ma­nagement authorities of the German Federal States can stringently monitor the path of disposal for these kinds of waste.[3]

The regulation only has to be passed by the Federal Council in Germany. The Federal Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, has expressed her positivity on this matter, stating: "The regulation will lead to a lasting solution. With this legislation, we are providing a basis for long-term stability in waste disposal prices, especially for insulation materials with HBCD. At the same time, it guarantees that these materials and other waste containing POPs will be per­manently disposed of in a way that is safe for the environment, and allows this process to be monitored thoroughly. Therefore, I am confident that the Federal States will vote in favor of this regulation and that it will take effect in the sum­mer of this year."[3]

The GBA Laboratory Group will continue to follow this topic and will inform you whether or not the regulation is passed before the German legislative period closes, thus allowing it to go into effect. If you have any questions about this or any other topic, we are gladly available to assist you.

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

[1], accessed on 14 June 2017
, accessed on 14 June 2017
[3], accessed on 14 June 2017


Aluminum in Food

by Mareen Lehmann, GBA Laboratory Group

Aluminum (Al) is a ubiquitous light metal and the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Furthermore, it is released into the environment through indus­trial processes or the oxidation of aluminum components. The human intake of aluminum occurs through food and drinking water, but also consumer goods that contain aluminum, such as dishes or food packaging, cosmetic items (anti­perspirants containing Al), or pharmaceuticals.[1]

Acids and salts have the effect of making aluminum soluble. For this reason, food packages and containers such as beverage cans, yoghurt lids, or alumi­num tanks for fruit juices are coated from within, in order to prevent aluminum ions from migrating into the food product. The decisive factor is not so much the presence of aluminum in the packaging material, but rather how much alumini­um is transferred to the food product and thus enters the body.[1]

In the context of the research project “Extent of the release of metals from food contact material,” the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in­vestigated the release of aluminum ions from uncoated aluminum food contai­ners into test food samples using the “cook & chill method” as well as a phase keeping the food warm. This method of catering is utilized in kindergartens, schools, businesses, retirement homes, as well as external catering. The cook & chill process involves the following steps: filling while hot, quickly cooling, cool storage, and reheating, along with the subsequent warm phase.[2] The results of testing – which was conducted using sauerkraut juice, apple sauce (diluted 1:1), and strained tomatoes – show that during the first four processing steps (filling while hot, quickly cooling, cool storage, and reheating), the SRL (specific release limit value) of 5 mg Al/kg food or dietary supplement, which was derived by the expert committee of the European council for food contact material, ge­nerally was not exceeded. The only case where it was exceeded was the sauer­kraut juice in a two-compartment container. In contrast, there were some cases where the SRL was exceeded quite significantly after the subsequent warm phase (2 hours at >65°C). In all of the containers, the transfer of aluminum ions was detected in the sample food that amounted to two to six times the SRL. The SRL is not based on health concerns, but rather it represents a value that is con­sidered “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA). According to an assess­ment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published in 2008, the tolerable weekly oral intake (TWI) of 1 mg Al/kg bodyweight, derived by EFSA, is exceeded by a significant portion of the European population. Keeping food warm in uncoated aluminum containers following the cook & chill process could lead to a further increase in the aluminum content in food.[3]

Therefore, the BfR recommends using only coated aluminum containers for the cook & chill process and/or utilizing containers made from other materials in or­der to prevent human intake of aluminum. The recommendations issued by the BfR are of particular relevance for sensitive consumer groups such as children or senior citizens, who may consume food that is kept warm like this on a daily basis.[1]

In healthy individuals, the majority of the aluminum that is consumed is elimina­ted through the kidneys. Aluminum that is not eliminated can accumulate pri­marily in the lungs or skeletal system over the course of a lifetime. Furthermore, this could lead to potential adverse effects on the nervous system, fertility, and unborn children, as well as effects on bone development.[2]

The GBA Laboratory Group has been analyzing aluminum in food products and products in close contact to consumers for many years and can provide you with comprehensive consulting on this subject. If you have any questions, plea­se feel free to contact your individual account manager or:

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


[1] verbrauchernahen_produkten-189498.html, accessed on 10 June 2017
[2] bfr_forschung__nachweis_des_uebergangs_von_aluminium_aus _menueschalen_in_lebensmittel-200871.html, accessed on 10 June 2017
[3] -forschungsergebnisse-zeigen-hohe-freisetzung-von-aluminiumionen.pdf, accessed on 10 June 2017


Environmental Contaminants Series: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

by Dr. Sven Steinhauer, GBA Laboratory Group

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are compounds that are composed of two to seven rings of carbon and hydrogen atoms. For example, the figure on the left side  shows benzo[a]pyrene.

The substance group is very large, with an estimated 10,000 compounds. The individual compounds generally have very similar properties. PAHs are general­ly lipophilic. This property is more pronounced when the number of rings is lar­ger. Not all substances can be analyzed at the same time, which is why, in the year 1977, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included 16 PAHs on the list of priority pollutants as part of the US Clean Water Act. These 16 PAHs cover a wide range of possible structures, are very toxic, can be easily detected chemically, and have often been found in PAH mixtures. The depicted Benzo[a]pyrene serves as a lead substance.
PAHs are not intentionally produced for specific products or processes, but arise from the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as wood, coal, or oil. Forest fires or volcanic eruptions represent natural sources. Today PAHs mainly come from the combustion of organic material for generating electricity and heat. Furthermore, PAHs are a natural component of coal and petroleum. Petroleum contains between 0.2 and 7% PAHs.[1] Fundamentally, the lower the temperature of the fire and the less oxygen is available, the more PAHs are pro­duced. Since most combustion processes are not fully controlled, the compo­sition of the PAHs is variable.

PAHs bind to dust or soot particles, allowing them to be dispersed in the at­mosphere over great distances and spread worldwide. This dust, which is contaminated with PAHs, returns to the earth's surface with the rain, fog, or snow, allowing them to be deposited on the ground or to end up in the surface water. In 2004 alone, around 530,000 metric tons (t) of the 16 PAHs listed by the EPA were emitted into the air. The top emitter was China, with 114,000 t, followed by India with 90,000 t, and the USA with 32,000 t of PAH emissions.[2] In Germany, 191,000 metric tons of benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene were emitted into the atmos­phere in the year 2010.[3] Only about 1% of those emissions were accounted for by large incineration plants and transportation. The majority (approx. 93%) of PAH emissions were the result of small and medium-sized incinerations for domestic and commercial purposes. The remaining 5% came from industrial processes.
For humans and the environment, the PAH substance group is a cause for concern, because they are simultaneously persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Many PAHs have properties that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and/or toxic to reproduction.[4]

PAHs can be found in conventional consumer goods, such as tool and bicycle handles, shoes, or sporting goods. In these cases, extenders like coal tar oil are used in order to achieve the desired elasticity. Generally, the coal tar extenders that contain PAHs are very cheap, which means that low-end or imported pro­ducts are more frequently contaminated with PAHs than products made using expensive plasticizers with reduced PAH content. PAHs are not easily recogni­zable by their appearance and there isn't really any quick way to check for PAH contamination in products. However, one indication can be a strong, oil-like, slightly chemical odor. Some products exude this smell long after purchase.
Until 2009, extender oils that contain PAHs were also used in car tires. On January 1, 2010, however, an EU-wide maximum level was set for PAHs in extender oils for car tires (1 mg/kg for benzo[a]pyrene or a total PAH level of 10 mg/kg). This was introduced as a further restriction in the European chemicals ordinance, REACH (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006). The aim is to reduce the air pollution that is caused by the abrasion of dust containing PAHs.
Asphalt made with tar that contained PAHs was used in road construction until 1970 in the Federal States of former West Germany, and even until 1990 in the Federal States of former East Germany. The tar was obtained through coal pro­cessing. Nowadays, bitumen is used as a binder for these minerals, which is generated by refining crude oil and contains smaller amounts of PAHs. Additionally, tarpaper was used – and to some extent is still used – for sealing roofs, although its usage has declined considerably since the 1980s.

There are numerous legal provisions limiting PAHs in certain products and in the environment, as well as specifications for certain technical processes de­signed to limit PAH emissions. For example, the EU chemicals ordinance, REACH, regulates how to deal with PAHs. According to REACH, substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMR substances) may not be passed on to the consumer. Eight of the PAHs designated by the EPA were classified as CMRs. However, the regulation relates only to substan­ces or mixtures and not to products, such as toys or shoes. Due to a German initiative, restrictions on PAHs in consumer products were implemented through­out Europe. The amendment to the REACH Regulation entered into force on December 27th, 2013. Thus, products with a content of more than 1 mg/kg of one of the eight carcinogenic PAHs are prohibited as of December 27th, 2015. The limit value for toys and baby articles is 0.5 mg/kg.
Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 on persistent organic pollutants regulates PAH contamination in the environment – air, soil, and water.[5] In addition, Directive 2004/107/EC establishes a target value for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and PAHs  in the air.[6]
The Federal Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites Ordinance (BBodSchV, 12 July 1999) establishes three values for the protection of soils against impurities: precautionary, test, and action values for the sum of the 16 EPA-PAHs, benzo[a]pyrene, and naphthalene.
The European Water Framework Directive (WFD, Directive 2000/60/EC (2000)) specifies "priority substances" in Annex X, including eight PAHs, which are valid throughout Europe as environmental quality standards. The environmental qua­lity standard for benzo[a]pyrene is 0.05 μg/l as an annual average. In addition, PAHs are classified as "priority hazardous substances". Starting at a date to be determined, it will no longer be allowed to discharge these substances into the environment.

When using sewage sludge in agriculture, there is no limit value for PAHs in Ger­many. However, an amendment to the sewage sludge ordinance is currently being prepared. The plan is to implement a limit value for benzo[a]pyrene of 1 mg/kg  of sewage sludge. This value would correspond to the value of the Ger­man Federal Soil Protection and Contaminated Site Ordinance.
Further guidelines can be found in the background paper published by the Ger­man Environmental Protection Agency – Umweltbundesamt.[7] PAH analysis in solids, water, and air has been an established part of the GBA Laboratory Group's portfolio for years and we always work with the latest equipment and processing methods. Special tests for organic matrices (biota) or the resorption of benzo[a]pyrene are also part of our analytical spectrum. We constantly moni­tor new developments in the field of environmental contaminants. The list of the analytes tested at GBA in the fields of environmental and foodstuff analysis is constantly being updated and expanded in order to meet the growing demands, so we can remain by your side as your trusted partner. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this or any other topic.

GBA Gesellschaft für Bioanalytik mbH
Dr. Peter Ludwig
Tel: +49 (0)4101 79 46-0


[1] National Research Council. 2003. Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects
[2] Zhang Y, Tao S. 2009. Global Atmospheric Emission Inventory of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) for 2004. Atmospheric Environment 43: 812-81
[3], accessed on 11 June 2017
[4] Crone TJ, Tolstoy M. 2010 Oct.Magnitude of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil leak. Science 330 (6004): 634
[5], accessed on 11 June 2017
[6], accessed on 11 June 2017
[7], accessed on 11 June 2017


Mycotoxins Series: Fumonisins

by Julia Bartels, GBA Laboratory Group

Fumonisins are mycotoxins that are formed by a variety of fungi of the genus Fusarium, primarily by Fusarium verticillioides (formerly also called Fusarium monilliforme) and Fusarium proliferatum. The Fusarium fun­gi are ubiquitous and generally infect living plants on fields, which is why they are considered field fungi. However, it is not impossible for these fungi to spread within a storage facility under certain conditions. In order to prevent fumonisin contamination from these fungi in a warehouse, it is recommended that the harvested produce be stored with a maximum water content of 14%. This could involve drying the harvested goods prior to storing them, in order to further minimize the spread of Fusarium fungi or a fumonisin infection. Corn kernels and corn-based food pro­ducts and animal feed are most commonly affected by fumonisin, but contami­nation can also be observed in rice and other grains. The infected grains can take on a hue ranging from light pink to a red-wine color.[1]

Since the discovery of fumonisins in 1988, a significant amount of time and effort has been invested in researching them due to their toxicity and worldwide presence. There are six known kinds of fumonisins. They are classified by indi­vidual types, B1 to B4, as well as FA1 and FA2, although the six compounds only differ very slightly from one another in terms of their chemical structure. For humans, types B1, B2, and B3 are the most significant, since these are the only ones that are found in moldy foodstuff and animal feed.[1] An EU-wide joint study found that 46% of all cereal samples were contaminated with fumonisin B1, 42% with fumonisin B2, and 36% with fumonisin B3. In the case of corn, even 66% of the samples demonstrated signs of fumonisin B1 contamination.[2] Out of all the fumonisins, type B1 is the most frequently occurring and most toxic compound, although the toxicological effects of the other fumonisins should not be ignored either. It has been observed that consumption of conta­minated feed leads to fatal brain diseases in horses and the formation of water in the lungs of pigs. Carcinogenic effects in humans have also been discussed. In particular, for people who consumed a large amount of highly contaminated corn, an increased risk of esophageal cancer was observed.[1] However, accor­ding to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), there is still insufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect in humans, which is why fumoni­sins have been classified as “potentially carcinogenic” (Group 2B).[3,4]

Based upon this information, the EU Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) has determined a tolerable daily intake (TDI) in order to protect humans from the potential risks. The TDI is 2 µg/kg body weight both for fumonisin B1 alone and for the sum of fumonisin B1, B2, and B3. Taking this value as a basis, they in­vestigated the actual intake of the European population as compared to the TDI. Results of the study showed that the TDI was not reached in any European country; only two countries (Italy and Norway) reached even one quarter of the 2 µg/kg body weight TDI. The study also took into consideration the average exposure and the average consumption of certain foods. Based on this infor­mation, it was possible to estimate which foods were the main factors in fumo­nisin exposure. In this case as well, it was confirmed that human intake of fumonisin B1, B2, and B3 is primarily a result of the consumption of corn and wheat products.[5]

Despite the low utilization of the TDI for fumonisins, due to their toxicological relevance, their content (as is the case with other mycotoxins) should be kept as low as reasonably achievable in production and processing with the available technology (the ALARA principle). Furthermore, for the food industry, Regulati­on (EC) No 1881/2006 defines the maximum permitted levels of fumonisin B1 and fumonisin B2.[6] For animal feed, there are no legal maximum levels for fumonisins, although the Commission has issued recommended guidance va­lues (2006/576/EC).[7]

The analysis of fumonisins 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 topic, or any others, then please contact your individual account manager at the GBA Laboratory Group, or:

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


[1] fumonisine.htm, accessed on 10 June 2017
[2] cs_contaminants_catalogue_fusarium_task3210.pdf, accessed on 10 June 2017
[3], accessed on 10 June 2017
[4], accessed on 10 June 2017
[5], accessed on 10 June 2017
[6], accessed on 10 June 2017
[7], accessed on 10 June 2017

Add to your contact list in order to ensure that you receive emails from the GBA Laboratory Group.

Disclosure | | Unsubscribe from newsletter

We try to research the content of our newsletters without errors and as thoroughly as possible for your benefit. If the statements contained within are nevertheless incomplete or contain errors, or if any changes have occurred since the date of publication, then the editors and publishers bear no liability.

Publisher of this newsletter: © GBA Laboratory Group. All rights reserved.