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Doctoral thesis, 2021

Wide-scope screening for contaminants of emerging concern in archived biota: Method development, suspect prioritisation, and non-target screening in a novel identification tool

Dürig, Wiebke


Environmental monitoring of hazardous chemicals in wildlife conventionally uses target screening for selected contaminants, but relatively few contaminants are moni-tored and knowledge of potentially hazardous contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in wildlife is lacking. In this thesis, a non-target screening (NTS) method com-bined with temporal trend analysis was developed and applied as a prioritisation tool for identification of CECs in top predators, using high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). A multi-residue sample extraction and HRMS screening method was devel-oped and validated for various biota tissue types and species, to capture chemicals with a broad range of physiochemical properties (Paper I). Minimised sample pre-treatment and clean-up resulted in a non-specific extraction method for NTS in biota. A tool for creating suspect lists for screening of CECs in biota was developed based on an exten-sive database of chemicals (Paper II). Systematic ranking of chemicals based on rele-vant physicochemical properties was used to prioritize CECs relevant for biota and water. Finally, a NTS workflow was developed for prioritizing CECs in time series of archived biological tissue of top predators. The samples included time series of muscle tissue from white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) (1965-2017) and Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) (1969-2017) obtained from the environmental specimen bank (ESB) at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (SMNH). The prioritisation method was validated with an artificial time series using spiked matrix samples of increasing concentrations (Paper III). A total of 14 compounds (six of anthropogenic origin) with increasing time trends were tentatively identified in white-tailed sea eagle samples, while two com-pounds with increasing time trends and one compound with a decreasing time trend were tentatively identified in lynx samples (Paper IV). The tentatively identified com-pounds originated from different chemical categories (pharmaceuticals, personal care products, industrial chemicals, herbicides). These results showed that, despite the high matrix effect and low expected concentrations in terrestrial species (lynx), it was possi-ble to tentatively identify new CECs in wildlife. The novel prioritisation strategy and NTS workflow developed in this thesis can provide a useful tool for future identifica-tion of CECs in biota. The overall findings can help government agencies expand their monitoring programmes for identification of CECs in biota.


contaminants of emerging concern; top predators; environmental specimen bank; time series analysis; prioritisation; mass spectrometry; non-target screening

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2021, number: 2021:4
ISBN: 978-91-7760-686-4, eISBN: 978-91-7760-687-1
Publisher: Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Dürig, Wiebke
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Analytical Chemistry
Environmental Management

URI (permanent link to this page)