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Diana Álvarez Muñoz

Project Leader

Project Description

Chemical contamination of estuarine and coastal areas is a highly complex issue with negative implications for the aquatic environment, human health (trough the possible ingestion of contaminated seafood), and related coastal activities such as fishing, aquaculture, or recreational activities. Thousands of chemicals are released to the environment due to human activities generating a “cocktail” of hazardous substances. Given that it is unrealistic to assess every possible combination of chemical substances the major challenge now is to develop systematic ways of addressing these chemical mixtures in environmental assessment, and to identify priority mixtures of potential concern. The application of non-target analysis techniques seems to be the way forward in order to fill this knowledge gap. In this sense, this project offers a new tool based on the application of xenometabolomics to wild organisms that will complement traditional environmental risk assessment techniques. The profiling of the xenometabolome will allow establishing priority mixtures of contaminants, and the metabolome will detect early stage metabolic dysregulations providing relevant information in risk assessment of environmental toxicant mixtures. Besides, the bioaccumulation of these priority mixtures in organisms such as mussels, highly consumed by the population, highlight the necessity of studying not only the identity but also the amount of contaminants present and the effect of cooking on their levels. These issues will be tackled with a multidisciplinary approach that will allow first to identity priority mixtures of contaminants of potential concern, second to study their bioaccumulation, third to assess their environmental risk, and fourth to know the real levels of contaminants to which consumers are exposed after cooking a meal with mussel.

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