Holistic non-targeted approach to determine pesticide and biocide residues in the aquatic environment

Recent technological developments in novel analytical high-resolution mass spectrometry equipment and advanced data processing tools have made a ‘non-targeted analysis’ concept feasible to find known and unknown environmental pollutants.

A momentous drawback of the current applied targeted chemical analysis approaches used in national environmental monitoring programmes is the exclusive focus on a predefined list of compounds for detection. Hence, other chemical entities, potentially also present in the given sample, are not observed and their presence are unnoticed. Non-target analysis is chemical sample analysis without any prior knowledge about its chemical content. The idea is to cover as many chemicals as possible, without focusing on a predefined selection.

This research project HITLIST demonstrates that non-target analysis can elucidate a wide range of pesticides and biocides, as well as other xenobiotics and natural substances, in a broad range of water samples. The project developed suspect and non-targeted screening approaches on commercially available technologies and solutions, enabling other research laboratories, enterprises and academia to establish such non-targeted analysis methodologies. The performed research optimized two high-resolution mass spectrometry platforms hyphenated either with liquid chromatography or ion exchange chromatography. Water samples from various sources, i.e. waterworks, groundwater wells, surface water, coastal water, wastewater effluent and rainwater were analysed by non-targeted analysis. Water samples were prepared for analysis by solid-phase extraction or direct injection. A total of 45 samples were analysed with one or both high-resolution mass spectrometry platforms within the project and in general the non-targeted analysis revealed more than a thousand substances in every sample.

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