Screening for >1,000 Organic Contaminants in Impaired Waters Using High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry

Oral Presentation

Prepared by T. Anumol
Agilent Technologies, Inc., 2850 Centerville Rd, Wilmington, DE, 19808, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 302-419-8909


The increase in population, growth of industry and climate change have all caused a tremendous burden on availability of clean water sources. Historically pristine sources of water are now under increasing threat of contamination from a plethora of point and non-point discharges. Traditionally, analysis of chemical contamination has focused on the selection of target compounds with analysis performed by tandem mass spectrometry. However, with over 15,000 new chemicals being introduced daily it is impractical and economically unfeasible to monitor each one.

In this study, a site in Pennsylvania that is surrounded by domestic, agricultural and fracking activity were monitored for a suite of target compounds including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal-care products and industrially-derived compounds using UHPLC-MS/MS. Further, a high resolution accurate mass time of flight mass spectrometer (QToF-MS) was used to screen for the presence of >1,500 target analytes including compounds regulated in EPA methods 521, 535, 539, 1694, 1698, 1699 and CCL4 while also performing a screen for unknown organic contaminants in the water and metabolites of the targeted compounds without the need for analytical standards. This analysis was performed using in a single analytical run using the All Ions MS approach and use of personal compound databases and libraries. Further, both the targeted and untargeted approach used an automated online solid phase extraction system that eliminated the manual and labor intensive sample preparation without compromising on achieving low ng/L detection limits for all analytes. The automated sample preparation allowed for increased reproducibility while requiring <5 mL of sample for analysis.
The results indicated a number of additional compounds being detected that are not currently regulated and provide a clearer picture of organic contamination in the area. This approach of targeted and untargeted screening could serve as a future blueprint for environmental monitoring and regulatory agencies.