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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Unraveling the chemodiversity of halogenated disinfection by-products formed during drinking water treatment using target and non-target screening tools

Postigo, Cristina; Andersson, Anna; Harir, Mourad; Bastviken, David; Gonsior, Michael; Schmitt-Kopplin, Philippe; Gago-Ferrero, Pablo; Ahrens, Lisa; Ahrens, Lutz; Wiberg, Karin


To date, there is no analytical approach available that allows the full identification and characterization of highly complex disinfection by-product (DBP) mixtures. This study aimed at investigating the chemodiversity of drinking water halogenated DBPs using diverse analytical tools: measurement of adsorbable organic halogen (AOX) and mass spectrometry (MS)-based target and non-target analytical workflows. Water was sampled before and after chemical disinfection (chlorine or chloramine) at four drinking water treatment plants in Sweden. The target analysis had the highest sensitivity, although it could only partially explain the AOX formed in the disinfected waters. Non-target Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) MS analysis indicated that only up to 19 Cl and/or Br-CHO formulae were common to all disinfected waters. Unexpectedly, a high diversity of halogenated DBPs (presumed halogenated polyphenolic and highly unsaturated compounds) was found in chloraminated surface water, comparable to that found in chlorinated surface water. Overall, up to 86 DBPs (including isobaric species) were tentatively identified using liquid chromatography (LC)-Orbitrap MS. Although further work is needed to confirm their identity and assess their relevance in terms of toxicity, they can be used to design suspect lists to improve the characterization of disinfected water halogenated mixtures.


chemical mixtures; DBP structure elucidation; non-target mass spectrometry analysis; compound identification workflow; chemical disinfection of water

Published in

Journal of Hazardous Materials
2021, Volume: 401, article number: 123681
Publisher: ELSEVIER