The German Centre for Micropollutants: About us

Learn more about the goals and tasks of the German Centre for Micropollutants.

Background

Our waters and wastewater are increasingly polluted by what are known as trace substances (synonymous with micropollutants). Trace substances are pollutants that are present in water bodies in very low concentrations and can have a damaging effect on aquatic ecosystems and humans even in the lowest concentrations. They may also have a long-term adverse effect on the condition of water bodies and the quality of drinking water. Many of these chemicals enter our waters via wastewater from households (pharmaceuticals, household chemicals and personal care products), from industrial plants or from agricultural land (industrial chemicals, pesticides).

Our goals and tasks

The main goal of the SZB is to protect water bodies and raw water for drinking water production in Germany in a comprehensive and precautionary manner in cooperation with all stakeholders and affected parties.

The main tasks of the SZB are the evaluation of the toxicological and ecotoxicological relevance of micropollutants, coordination of the multi-stakeholder dialogue and management of the office of a committee that assesses the relevance of micropollutants (“Gremium zur Bewertung der Relevanz von Spurenstoffen”). The members of this committee include up to 15 experts from public authorities, industry, environmental and water associations. They hold meetings at regular intervals to consider proposals by the SZB and issue final evaluations of the environmental relevance of micropollutantsfor waterbodies.

If the committee classifies a substance as all stakeholders can be brought together in "round tables" to discuss and decide on measures to reduce emissions of production processes and applications and to promote greater producer responsibility. Three such round tables have already been established within the framework of the stakeholder dialogue on the substances diclofenac, benzotriazole and X-ray contrast agents. In the future, round tables will be organised by the SZB and evaluated and improved with regard to the environmental goals to be achieved. The SZB will review and evaluate the success of the measures adopted.

All measures along the life cycle of micropollutants should always be considered in a coordinated approach to achieve the protection of our water bodies. The approach followed by the SZB is to prevent micropollutants from entering wastewater in the first place. This is why it is important to minimise, replace or avoid the use of substances with problematic properties as early as the production and use of products.

The SZB is also responsible for substance priority-setting and the derivation of environmental quality standards (EQS) in the context of the European Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) and the Surface Water Ordinance (OGewV).

The stakeholder dialogue also developed an "orientation framework for municipal wastewater treatment plants", which is meant to serve as to reduce micropollutants. Interested federal Länder will receive advice on how to implement it.

Cooperation and exchange

Given the mounting impact of micropollutants on our water bodies and drinking water, the SZB can only solve pending problems through the combined efforts of all stakeholders and affected parties.

The SZB seeks an exchange of experience, open dialogue with all stakeholders and cooperation (from other authorities, water management, agricultural associations, industry, environmental organisations and, last but not least, people from science and research) in order to promote joint, targeted action. The SZB is also willing to cooperate on a European and international level.

Looking ahead, the SZB will develop into a platform for the exchange of experience on innovative and participative ways of reducing micropollutants in water to enable a broad transfer of knowledge in politics, science and industry.

To get in touch with the German Centre for Micropollutants, send an email to spurenstoffzentrum [at] uba [dot] de.

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 micropollutants  trace substances  substance evaluation  water protection