Nanjing skyline from the shore of Xuanwu Lake.
Nanjing, China was the venue for this year’s International Workshop on Chemical Bioavailability (IWCB), the eighth in the biennial series, held in October 2015. The previous meeting was held in Nottingham, UK. The series of conferences has become globally recognised as one of the most significant in the fields of bioavailability, bioaccessibility, and in the wider context of geochemistry.
As part of my EngD research project, I had the opportunity to attend the conference and present some of my work. The meeting provided an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast work between researchers and practitioners. In addition the truly global nature of the conference enabled significant contrasts between the approaches of researchers to the field, and the relevance of bioavailability and bioaccessibility within differing national contexts. Naturally for a conference hosted in Nanjing, there were a significant number of Chinese researchers in attendance, alongside delegates from Australia, the USA, India and the EU. These included the Dutch RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) regulatory body, which is taking a leading role in advancing the case for bioaccessibility testing in human health risk assessment. Together, there were oral and poster presentations from across the globe on many aspects of risk assessment, including new methods and processes to estimate bioaccessibility in the lab – the driver behind my own work.
The meeting concluded with a discussion about the future for bioaccessibility and bioavailability assessment, with a particular focus on Chinese expectations and European experiences. This was a lively discussion, and showed a great eagerness for academics to join and act together to improve assessment, despite varied regulatory regimes and practices.
China is a country coming to terms with rapid industrialisation, and is reaping the environmental consequences as well as economic rewards that this brings. Meetings like the IWCB will help Chinese scientists and regulators, as well as those in other rapidly developing nations, make a more sustainable transition to improved lifestyles and standard of living for their citizens. Within the wider global context, bioaccessibility testing still faces challenges to its acceptance in many regions – the IWCB meetings will continue to play a significant role in the global study of bioaccessibility and bioavailability assessment.
My thanks go to the organising committee and the hosts, Nanjing University, for providing a well-run, engaging conference. Xie xie!
Post by EngD researcher Stephen Lowe. Find out more about Stephen’s research here.