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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Suspect screening based on market data of polar halogenated micropollutants in river water affected by wastewater

Menger, Frank; Ahrens, Lutz; Wiberg, Karin; Gago-Ferrero, Pablo


Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are known point sources of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) to the aquatic environment, but current knowledge is mostly limited to well-known chemical structures. In this study, we sought to identify unknown CECs polluting the aquatic environment through a novel suspect screening approach for organohalogens, i.e. organic halogenated molecules often toxic and resistant to transformation and characterised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Surface water samples were collected with passive samplers in the Fyris River catchment (Uppsala, Sweden), analysed using liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) and screened for organohalogens using a suspect screening approach based on market data obtained from a regulatory authority. Thirteen suspects from very different application areas were confirmed or tentatively identified with high confidence, including seven previously unknown structures (diflufenican, chlorzoxazone, 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea, 2,4-disulfamyl-5-trifluoromethylaniline, 5-amino-2-chlorotoluene-4-sulfonic acid, perfluoropentane-1-sufonic acid, (2-chlorophenyl)(hydroxy)methanesulfonic acid). Spatiotemporal occurrence patterns were detected, which helped to understand the usage pattern of the chemicals and pinpoint potential pollution sources, e.g. specific WWTPs in the catchment. Several of the newly identified structures had virtually no information publicly available and were detected years after their last registered use, which highlights the knowledge gaps and concerns about POPs.


Organic micropollutants (OMPs); POCIS; On-site sewage treatment facilities; Source tracing

Published in

Journal of Hazardous Materials
2021, Volume: 401, article number: 123377