Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Wide-scope screening of polar contaminants of concern in water: A critical review of liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry-based strategies

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


The number of chemicals with potential to reach the environment is still largely unknown, which poses great challenges for both environmental scientists and analytical chemists. Liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) is currently the instrumentation of choice for identification of wide-scope polar chemicals of concern (CECs) in water. This review critically evaluates all steps involved in screening for polar CECs in water, including sampling and extraction, analysis by LC-HRMS, data (pre-)treatment, evaluation and reporting. Passive samplers and direct injection, in combination with LC-HRMS, provide new opportunities compared with conventional grab water sampling, as do instrumental advances such as ion-mobility spectrometry coupled to HRMS (IM-HRMS). In this paper, we argue that target, suspect and non-target screening should not be viewed as three separate principles, but rather as conceptual approaches to general data treatment strategies that can be linked together. Due to the large amount of data generated, smart prioritisation strategies are needed, in particular for non-target screening, to reduce complexity and focus on data of high interest. We critically evaluate existing strategies and consider that each prioritisation step will result in data loss (as any other step in a screening study), requiring compromises depending on the research question to be tackled. Many different data treatment strategies have been developed in recent years, but structure elucidation remains a challenging and time-consuming task. We discuss current and potential future trends, e.g. effect-based methods that can be used as future prioritisation tools, technological advances like IM-HRMS and improved software solutions that can enable new data treatment strategies.


Aquatic environment; Organic; Emerging micropollutant; Non-Target screening; Suspect screening; LC; HRMS; Water analysis

Published in

Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry
2020, Volume: 28, article number: e00102