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Suspect Screening and Regulatory Databases: A Powerful Combination To Identify Emerging Micropollutants

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posted on 2018-05-21, 00:00 authored by Pablo Gago-Ferrero, Agnes Krettek, Stellan Fischer, Karin Wiberg, Lutz Ahrens
This study demonstrates that regulatory databases combined with the latest advances in high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) can be efficiently used to prioritize and identify new, potentially hazardous pollutants being discharged into the aquatic environment. Of the approximately 23000 chemicals registered in the database of the National Swedish Product Register, 160 potential organic micropollutants were prioritized through quantitative knowledge of market availability, quantity used, extent of use on the market, and predicted compartment-specific environmental exposure during usage. Advanced liquid chromatography (LC)–HRMS-based suspect screening strategies were used to search for the selected compounds in 24 h composite samples collected from the effluent of three major wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Sweden. In total, 36 tentative identifications were successfully achieved, mostly for substances not previously considered by environmental scientists. Of these substances, 23 were further confirmed with reference standards, showing the efficiency of combining a systematic prioritization strategy based on a regulatory database and a suspect-screening approach. These findings show that close collaboration between scientists and regulatory authorities is a promising way forward for enhancing identification rates of emerging pollutants and expanding knowledge on the occurrence of potentially hazardous substances in the environment.

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