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Research projects

SOILEFFECT: Development of bioreporter-based survey and health risk assessment of toxic chemicals in contaminated areas

About this project

Project information

Project status



Magnus Engwall

Research subject

Research environments

The objective of this project, funded by The Knowledge Foundation, is to develop a reliable and relevant bioreporter-based technology for area survey and ecosystem and health risk assessment of toxic chemicals in contaminated areas. Bioreporters are genetically engineered cell-based test systems made sensitive to toxicants acting via various types of mechanisms of toxicity. The bioreporter-based methods employ highly sensitive, state of the art bioanalytical systems for detection of biological effects of all relevant toxicants.

A method showing the total toxic potential of all relevant toxicants in the soil and taking into account toxicant interactions will improve risk assessments of contaminated areas which in turn will lead to a better decision support for remediation actions and sustainable management of contaminated areas.

The work will be done in collaboration between the research center MTM at Örebro University, the environmental consultant companies Sweco and WSP and the environmental analysis company Eurofins Environment Testing Sweden AB.

By using a bioreporter-based method for area survey and health risk assessment of toxic chemicals in contaminated areas consulting companies will be able to:

  • Take into account toxic interactions and effects of mixtures of chemicals, which is a developing research field that has not influenced risk assessment so much yet.
  • Detect effects from all present toxic substances, and therefore enable a risk assessment that deals with total toxicity, not only the probable effects of the usually small number of substances that have been chosen for chemical analysis.
  • Detect risks for endocrine disruption, which is not considered in risk assessment of contaminated areas.
  • Take bioavailability of all toxicants into account in a comprehensive manner, and thereby not overestimating risk for substances with low bioavailability.
  • Perform cost-effective surveys by starting with bioreporter-based tests, rather than analyzing a great number of substances at great cost.
  • Create better decision-support so that soil remediation can be focused on the most cost-effective measures.

If the proposed technology proves to be cost-effective, reliable and accepted by authorities, the project can lead to development of new business opportunities in survey and risk assessment of contaminated areas and provide an important step toward the Swedish environmental quality objective “A Non-Toxic Environment".

Scientific advancements include development of novel rapid sampling methods based on toxicant availability and actual risks of toxicants and increased understanding of toxicant addition as a basis for risk assessment of complex mixtures. Bioreporters will be valuable for advancing the research area of combination effects of chemicals and for studying background soil pollution of endocrine disruptors, mutagenic and dioxin-like compounds.

The following hypothesis will be tested in the project:

Bioreporter-based survey methods can improve estimation of the total chemical load of complex toxicant mixtures in contaminated areas and thereby improve risk assessment and guide cost-effective remediation actions.

Research groups

Research funding bodies

  • The Knowledge Foundation