November 11, 2021 at 10:45

The Roots and History of the Department of Environmental Science

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring documented widespread detrimental effects on wildlife from organochlorine pesticides such as DDT. In response to this, Sweden created the National Envi­ronmental Protection Board (now the Swedish EPA) in 1967, including establishing several research laboratories to measure and study environmental pollutants and their effects. In 1992, four of these laboratories were transferred to Stockholm University (SU), becoming the Institute of Applied Envi­ronmental Science (ITM) and ITM would eventually become the Department of Environmental Science (ACES). This presentation will cover the history of ITM/ACES, with parallels to the history and develop­ment of environmental science.

About the speaker

Dr. Cynthia de Wit is professor in environmental science at ACES. She received bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry and a master’s degree in comparative animal physiology from the University of Kansas, USA. She came to Sweden in 1981 on a one-year Fulbright Fellowship and received her Ph.D. in zoophysiology from the University of Lund, Sweden, in 1987 (Dissertation title: The hedgehog’s [Erina­ceus europaeus] natural resistance to European viper [Vipera berus] venom: The role of ß-macroglobulin inhibitor as antihemorrhagic factor).

She first became involved in research on organic environmental contaminants at the Swedish EPA in 1988, within a national survey of polychlorinated dioxins and related chemicals, which continued from 1992 at SU. Within this survey, she also became involved in studying brominated flame retardants in the environment. Her research over the past 20 years has focussed on legacy and emerging flame re­tardants in indoor and outdoor environments, including human exposure assessments for both adults and children. Other research interests have included organohalogen chemicals in terrestrial and Baltic Sea food webs. She is currently leading a study of the mass balance of organohalogen compounds in a sewage treatment plant using a combination of targeted and non-targeted analyses. She served as the director of ITM (old name for ACES) from 1995–2001, vice-director of ITM from 2002–2004, and is cur­rently vice head of ACES since 2017. Dr. de Wit has also served as co-lead of the Persistent Organic Pol­lutants (POPs) Expert Group of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) since 1994. In that role, she has been involved in leading five international assessment reports on POPs, includ­ing contaminants of emerging concern, in the Arctic.