Frozen Environmental History: The German Environmental Specimen Bank

2007, Journals

Andreas Gies, Christa Schröter-Kermani, Heinz Rüdel, Martin Paulus, Gerhard A. Wiesmüller
(2007) Organohalogen Compounds 69, 504-507.


The German Environmental Specimen Bank (ESB) is a monitoring instrument of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The ESB is managed by the Federal Environment Agency and operated by contracted research institutes and university groups with special competencies in the particular fields (e.g., sampling of human, biological, and abiotic material, trace analysis of pollutants, cryobank operation). Routine operation of the German ESB started in 1985. Human specimens are taken annually from students at four German universities and are archived as individual samples. Environmental specimens are also taken annually from representative marine, fresh water and terrestrial ecosystems. After pooling and homogenizing, environmental samples are stored at temperatures below -150°C. After two decades of operation the ESB provides now a continuous historical record of the state of the environment in Germany in this period. It allows the retrospective monitoring of pollutants to identify temporal trends and spatial load differences. Target compounds may be those which had not yet been recognized as hazardous when the specimens were archived (emerging pollutants) or which could not be analyzed with the desirable precision at that time. The ESB makes it possible to analyze samples from the past using the analytical methods of the future.

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