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8 January 2015

Peter Wardenbach in Memoriam (1945-2014)

Collegium Ramazzini Emeritus Fellow Dr. Peter Wardenbach peacefully passed away on November 29th, 2014 at the age of 69 at home, surrounded by his family. He leaves his wife Linda, 3 children and 3 grandchildren behind.

He was born September 27, 1945, North-Rhine-Westphalia/Germany. He studied Chemistry at the University of Bonn and graduated 1976 with a doctoral thesis in human genetics on Quantitative analysis of phenylalanine and tyrosine metabolites in urine as indicators of different genotypes of hyperphenylalaninaemia.
The German Chemical Act was in just preparation when Peter worked as Postdoc at the Institute of Human Genetics, Bonn University. In 1975 the German Research Council published a Memorandum on Toxicology. Because of the foreseeable need for qualified toxicologists, with chemical-legislation introduced, a postgraduate curriculum in toxicology was established at the University of Tubingen.
Peter applied for the course and was accepted with 16 other colleagues and started a new career in Toxicology. He studied in Tubingen and Munich and qualified as board certified toxicologist in 1980.
Most of his classmates then accepted jobs in companies, but Peter declined the offer to work for the chemical industry, but took an appointment at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, based in Dortmund. Following the implementation of the Chemical Act Legislation July1980, the agency adopted the task to evaluate new chemicals and their risk to man and the environment.
Peter had the sought-after expert knowledge and skills in the field of toxicology and became head of the Toxicology Group of the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Professionally he committed himself to the central question if workers could be harmed by the use of new chemicals in the workplace - especially in the long-term. Later, an evaluation of "old" chemicals by the EU Existing Substances Regulation - a herculean task - complemented his regulatory responsibilities.
His interests included health-based occupational limit values, benchmark dose modelling, classification and labelling of carcinogenic/mutagenic/reproductive toxicants, especially hazard assessment of substitutes for asbestos, mineral fibers and long term effects of granular and fibrous particles in the occupational setting, limit values for particulate matter, impact assessment for substances that cause cancer, alter genes or may be teratogenic. With great commitment, passion and perseverance he fought for the case of occupational safety in national, European and international bodies. He was critical about non-scientific considerations being used to set TLV's being insufficient for health protection to workers. As a member of an international experts committee of the Health Council of the Netherlands he was involved in reassessment and recommendation of health-based OELs.
He criticized the revaluation by an IARC working group that insulation glass wool, continuous glass filament, rock (stone) wool and slag wool are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans (change from Group 2B to Group 3) and argued that the newer inhalation studies are not sufficiently supported by the published data. Having in mind the higher sensitivity of humans compared to rats after inhalation of asbestos, more emphasis should have been given to the carcinogenic response after intraperitoneal injection.
We remember him as a determined scientist for the cause of healthy working conditions. He was clear and incorruptible in the matter, independent in judgment, and uncomfortable for the industry lobby.
He was a regular attendee at Ramazzini Days in Carpi together with his wife Linda. He became Emeritus Fellow when he retired 4 years ago. Peter was a warm, strong character and wise man, taking a back seat in personal matters, but taking the front seat when it came to fighting for occupational safety.
Dr. Eleftheria Lehmann, the former director of the State Agency for Occupational Safety in North-Rhine-Westphalia in her funeral speech bid farewell: "his unsentimental sobriety and restraint seemed sometimes like a shield behind which a gracious, warm person sought shelter".




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