Withdrawal of aliquots from a cryogenic container.
Photo: Fraunhofer IME

The long-term storage of environmental and human specimens is regarded as the main task of the German Environmental Specimen Bank: The Environmental Specimen Bank provides a continuous historical record of the state of the environment in Germany.

The storage of the samples at very low temperatures ensures over a period of several decades that changes in their chemical and physical properties are almost impossible.

Environmental Specimen Archive

The archive for environmental specimens is located at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Schmallenberg-Grafschaft.

Immediately after sampling, the pre-cleaned and biometrically characterised material is deep-frozen in the gaseous phase above liquid nitrogen. The transport of specimens to Schmallenberg is carried out in cryogenic containers at temperatures below -150°C without interruption of the cooling chain.

At Fraunhofer IME, the specimens are ground in deep-frozen condition to produce a fine homogeneous powder. About 10 g portions of standardized sub-specimens are stored.

As part of the chemical characterization of specimens, some of these sub-specimens are analyzed for inorganic substances, CHCs and PAHs.

Remaining sub-specimens are long-term stored above liquid nitrogen at temperatures below -150°C. The stock of archived specimens is updated annually.

Archive of human organ specimen

Human specimens (whole blood, blood plasma and urine) are frozen above liquid nitrogen on the day of sampling at the four sampling locations. They are transported to the archive of human specimens near Münster (Westf.) for  long-term storage without interruption of the cooling chain.

Provision of specimens and data from the German ESB

The environmental and human specimens as well as all data are the property of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and are, in principle, available for retrospective analysis to the ministry itself.

Provided that specific conditions are met, however, specimens and/or data may be provided to external parties.

These conditions have been laid down in Annex 4 Rules for the provision of specimens and data from the German ESB and for the processing of inquiries to the German ESB of the Environmental Specimen Bank concept.

To concept

Stock of environmental specimen

The following overviews contain the stock of environmental and human specimens which are available for retrospective analysis:

Stock of environmental samples (Table in MS-Excel-Format .xlsx, 100 KB),

Stock of human samples (Table in MS-Excel-Format .xlsx, 20 KB) .