Under the influence of regulations: spatio-temporal trends of the UV filter 2-Ethylhexyl-4-methoxycinnamate (EHMC) in German rivers

2021, Journals

Nagorka, Regine; Duffek, Anja
Environmental Sciences Europe 33 (2021), 8



Globally, 2-Ethylhexyl-4-methoxycinnamate (EHMC) is one of the most commonly used UV filters in sunscreen and personal care products. Due to its widespread usage, the occurrence of EHMC in the aquatic environment has frequently been documented. In the EU, EHMC is listed under the European Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP) as suspected to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) and as a potential endocrine disruptor. It was included in the first watch list under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) referring to a sediment PNEC of 200 µg/kg dry weight (dw). In the light of the ongoing substance evaluation to refine the environmental risk assessment, the objective of this study was to obtain spatio-temporal trends for EHMC in freshwater.

We analyzed samples of suspended particulate matter (SPM) retrieved from the German environmental specimen bank (ESB). The samples covered 13 sampling sites from major German rivers, including Rhine, Elbe, and Danube, and have been collected since mid-2000s.


Our results show decreasing concentrations of EHMC in annual SPM samples during the studied period. In the mid-2000s, the levels for EHMC ranged between 3.3 and 72 ng/g dw. The highest burden could be found in the Rhine tributary Saar. In 2017, we observed a maximum concentration ten times lower (7.9 ng/g dw in samples from the Saar). In 62% of all samples taken in 2017, concentrations were even below the limit of quantification (LOQ) of 2.7 ng/g dw.


The results indicate a general declining discharge of EHMC into German rivers within the last 15 years and correspond to the market data. Although the measured levels are below the predicted no-effect level (PNEC) in sediment, further research should identify local and seasonal level of exposure, e.g., at highly frequented bathing waters especially in lakes. In addition, possible substitutes as well as their potentially synergistic effects together with other UV filters should be investigated.

doi: 10.1186/s12302-020-00448-w