Sitting Down With… Stefan van Leeuwen, Senior Scientist, Wageningen Food Safety Research, University of Wageningen, The Netherlands
What is the overarching theme of your work?
Environmental contaminant analysis is really the core of my work – particularly substances that persist in the environment for long periods. These so-called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) eventually enter our food chain, so they are of special concern for human health. I started my career studying polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and brominated flame retardants with Jacob de Boer’s group at Wageningen Marine Research, but, by the early 2000s, our international coworkers had pointed us towards a new pollutant of interest – perfluorooctane sulfonate. Soon many more per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFASs) were detected, and their study became a field in its own right. After 5 years at the VU University in Amsterdam, where I obtained my PhD developing analytical methods for detecting the occurrence of POPs in fish for human consumption, I started in my current position at Wageningen Food Safety Research, where research on POPs in food has continued.
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