Do you have questions about the German Environmental Specimen Bank?

About us

What is the Environmental Specimen Bank?

We analyse the exposure of humans and our environment to chemicals and document the sample taking process. Since 1985 we are collecting year by year thousands of samples that are stored permanently. The Environmental Specimen Bank offers every interested person the possibility to access these data directly.

Who is intended to use the Internet service?

Our service is aimed at interested citizens, the scientific expert world, as well as politics and administration.

In the following sections, we will explain how to access and make use of the topics and results of the Environmental Specimen Bank.

Therefore, we hope that both first-time and regular visitors of our site will be able to quickly and easily make their way through its content and find useful information.

How is the Internet service of the Environmental Specimen Bank used?

There are different ways to approach the subject matter of chemical pollution of humans and their environment.

The profiles, for example, provide an overview over what we are actually analysing and why. Furthermore, they serve as an entry point to the data search allowing you to obtain direct information about the chemical pollution data.

The selected results are research data that have been edited and commented for you and therefore represent a good entry point.

However, you may also directly access the specimen bank through the data search and view the data as tables or diagrams.

What does the Environmental Specimen Bank offer?

The Environmental Specimen Bank provides a current overview over the chemical exposure of different ecosystems within Germany. This overview is created using several samples that we have carefully selected with respect to their relevance and representativeness.

In addition, the Environmental Specimen Bank offers a description of these ecosystems, of the test subjects, as well as of the investigated substances, and the areas in which the investigations have been carried out.

The ESB's basic functions

The homepage

The homepage contains hyperlinks and short summaries of different topics. The large area in the left-hand area of the page, for example, allows you to go directly to the profiles, that is, the descriptions of the analysed defined samples, analytes (substances), etc. To select a topic, click it in the picture.

Moreover, the area on the right-hand side of the homepage contains a short overview over some selected results. These are special results that have been edited and commented for you, and therefore are a good entry point to familiarise yourself with the Environmental Specimen Bank. By clicking the blue dots in the upper right-hand corner of the area, you can switch between different selected results.

In the middle of the right-hand area, we show you a selected profile that is periodically updated. This selected profile is aimed at for example regular users of the service, and provides them with an entry point to areas of the Environmental Specimen Bank that they might not have considered yet.

And last but not least, the latest news is displayed at the bottom of the right-hand area. By clicking the symbol, you can subscribe to our news feed (your browser needs to support it).


The profiles are a core component of the Environmental Specimen Bank. They describe the parameters of our investigations: What has been analysed in which specimen where and when. They are intended as an entry point to the actual data search and as a support for the interpretation of the data. There are five profile categories:
Ecosystems, Specimen types, Sampling areas, Analytes and Time references.
The last four differ from the ecosystems in that they correspond directly to the parameters that can be selected in the data search. Therefore, the profiles of these four categories always represent a direct entry point to the data search: You always have the possibility to switch directly to the data search by clicking the link displayed under the description.

Many profiles have subordinated profiles attached to them, e.g. one for each of the analysed organs of a sample or one for each of the segments of a river. If present, these subordinated profiles are displayed following the data search link. If the topic has an explicit profile attached to it, a corresponding link will be displayed, and you can navigate deeper into the information structure. If not, you can directly initiate the data search for this subordinated profile by clicking the link "Data search".

The subordinated profiles are followed by a list of profiles corresponding to the other three parameters. If, for example, for the eelpout in the Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea) different metals have been analysed between 1990 and 2009, the profile of the 'eelpout' will include references to the profiles of the 'Wattenmeer' and the 'metals', as well as information about the sampling period. The references, in turn, each include a data search link that allows to start the data search with exactly this parameter combination. In the above example, e.g. with 'eelpout' + 'Wattenmeer', or 'eelpout' + 'metals'.


In order to keep you informed about changes in our data, we publish news on an irregular basis. To display an overview of all the published news, click in the main menu on "Service" and then "News".

Contact form

Our service includes a Contact form that provides you with an easy way to send us a message. To open the contact form, click in the main menu on "Service" and then "Contact".

You provide your personal data on a voluntary basis. However, we ask you kindly to provide either an e-mail address or a phone number so that we can contact you if required.

The relevant privacy and data protection laws will apply to each piece of information that you provide.


The Glossary provides an alphabetic list with all the technical terms used in the Environmental Specimen Bank. In order to navigate directly to the section containing the terms beginning with a specific letter, click the letter in the alphabetic bar displayed underneath the heading.

Should you need more information about a term, click the link "go to document".

The sitemap

The sitemap is a list of all the base pages of the Internet service of the Environmental Specimen Bank. It provides a list with the structure of all the pages, as well as a short description of each page.

Data search

Chemical pollution vs. sample descriptions

The data search is divided in two sections: Chemical pollution and sample descriptions.

Under the topic Chemical pollution, you will find information about the measured pollution of specific samples with specific chemical substances. Sample descriptions are biometrical characteristics of the analysed specimen, e.g. "length" or "weight".

How to perform a data search

The Environmental Specimen Bank offers several ways to access specific data that might be relevant to you.

The way we recommend is via the profiles. Depending on the data you are interested in, you can choose a relevant entry point, i.e. a specific specimen, analyte or area. Using the links to the data search displayed in the profiles, you can go directly to the search form. The form will already be filled with the corresponding data from the profile.

Alternatively, you can open the search form directly by clicking on the page "Data search" either on "chemical pollution" or on "sample descriptions".

Selecting the search parameters

In order to perform a precise data search and keep the number of returned results manageable, you can specify search parameters from up to four categories:
The specimen type (the analysed specimen or parts thereof), the analyte (the analysed chemical substance), the sampling area (the area where the sample was taken), and the "Time reference" (the year in which the sample was taken).
In the data search via "Sample descriptions", the analyte cannot be selected.

To select the relevant search parameters, click the "Edit" link in the corresponding category. The search parameters list that is displayed reflects the parameters that are available in combination with the parameters selected in the other three (that is, two when using the search mode through the sample descriptions) categories. This means that you can select parameters only if measurement data is available for the current selection.

As per default, the parameters are displayed within their category structure, which can be expanded via the "+" symbol. When a category is selected, all its sub-categories are automatically selected as well.
Alternatively, you can display the parameters in alphabetic order.

Once you have selected one or several parameters, you can accept and finish the selection for the current category by clicking on "Apply".

When you have selected at least one parameter in each of the required categories, the button "Start search" will turn green and become clickable. No selection has to be made for categories that are not labelled with a *.

Clicking on "Reset" will reset the entire parameter selection.


You can save the current state of your search by clicking the link "Bookmark" at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you can use the built-in bookmarking functionality of your browser or copy the URL in the address field of your browser.

The address of your data search will remain valid over a long period of time.

Search results

Tabular result

Initially, a search result is always displayed in tabular form. In this table, you can select specific measurement rows, i.e. in order to export the data for further processing or display them as diagram. To do this, select one or more check boxes in the first table column, and then click on the corresponding link in the tab bar.

The table contains several sections for the different sampling areas relevant to your search or for each of the specimen types. Each section displays the analytes (that is, biometrical parameters) in rows. The rows display the values referring to different statistical parameters such as "mean value" or "standard deviation" for each sampling year. All available parameters are listed in the chapter "Statistical data analysis and all available parameters".

If applicable, some foot notes will be displayed below the table that provide you with specific information about certain measurement values. Additionally, you will find there the legends for the abbreviations used in the tables.

Statistical data analysis and all avalable parameters

Descriptive statistics were generated using the inline functions of Oracle® 11g Standard Edition. Analyte concentrations that were below the respective limit of quantification (LOQ) were assigned a value of LOQ/2. The percentiles were generated using the Oracle® function PERCENTILE_CONT.

If you select the checkbox "All available parameters" in the page with the tabular search result, a list containing all available statistical parameters will be displayed. In the case of the human samples, this includes the differentiation by gender. Moreover, the chemical pollution section will display the measurement method and the measurement institute. The parameters in detail:

  • count (the underlying sample size of single individuals respectively the number of analysed aliquots (subsamples) of pool samples)
  • arithmetic mean
  • standard deviation
  • geometric mean
  • 5th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 95th percentile and the associated 95% confidence intervals (for underlying analysed individuals)
  • measurements count (number of analyzed indivdual samples respectively number of analysed aliquots (subsamples) of pool samples)
  • measurements count ≥ LOQ (number of measurements greater or equal the limit of quantification (LOQ))
  • lowest LOQ and highest LOQ (the lowest and the highest determined limit of quantification over the course of analyses)
  • measurement institute and measurement method

Other scale types

The chemical analyses are carried out either when the samples are wet or dry. Therefore, the measurement values are indicated as per default in relation to "dry weight" or "fresh weight". Moreover, the water and the lipid content of the samples is determined.
By clicking "Other scale types" in the tabular search result, you can also display the measurement values in relation to other base weights. In this case, if the required data are available and a conversion in relation to the analyte and the analysed matrix is useful, the values will be converted and displayed together with the original data. The conversions indicated are from dry weight to wet weight and wet weight to lipid weight.


If you have selected one or more measurement rows in the tabular view, you can display the data in form of one or more diagrams.

If you hover the mouse over individual points or bars in the diagram, details of the measurements will be shown (tooltip).

Furthermore you can zoom parts of the diagram by dragging the mouse. If you want to zoom another part of the diagram or reset the zooming, click the Reset Zoom button in the right upper area of the diagram.
By clicking the symbol Icon export options in the upper right corner of the diagram, you get several options for processing the diagram. You can print the diagram, or download it as a PNG and JPEG image, or as PDF document and SVG vector diagram.

Note: In order to view diagrams, you need javascript activated in your browser.

Diagram types

As per default, diagrams are displayed as line charts. If applicable for the type of measurement values, you can choose other diagram types in the diagram view. To choose another diagram type, select another diagram type in the list "If applicable, view as" and click on "View".

Available diagram types are:
Line diagram: The default representation as line diagram.
Bar chart: This alternative representation is always available.
Box and Whisker diagram: The representation as so-called "boxplot" is only available in combination with human and biometrical data.
Stacked bar chart: Certain analytes (e.g. PCB congeners, PAH) can also be displayed as stacked bar charts.

Aggregated individual data can be displayed as Box and Whisker diagrams.  Box and Whisker diagrams are described by five parameters. The lower limit of the box by the first quartile (25th percentile) and the upper limit by the third quartile (75th percentile). Additionnally the median (50th percentile) is shown. The whisker range up to the lowest (minimum) respectively up to the highest (maximum) measured value.    


You can export the data in the Excel XML format (support as of MS Office 2003 and later), as well as the CSV format (Comma-Separated Values) in order to use them for further processing in other applications. To export data, select one or more measurement rows in the tabular search result, and click on "Export". Next, you can select whether you want to export the data as MS Excel XML file or as CSV file. In the case of the CSV format, you can select the delimiter character to use. After clicking the button "Export", your browser will display a download dialogue that allows you to save the data or open them directly.
The CSV files are encoded with the character set latin 3. In some cases, it is necessary to provide this encoding information when opening the file with the spreadsheet application, since otherwise some special characters might not be displayed correctly.