Filling the knowledge gap: A suspect screening study for 1310 potentially persistent and mobile chemicals with SFC- and HILIC-HRMS in two German river systems


Persistent and mobile chemicals (PM chemicals) were searched for in surface waters by hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography (HILIC) and supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC), both coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS). A suspect screening was performed using a newly compiled list of 1310 potential PM chemicals to the data of 11 surface water samples from two river systems. In total, 64 compounds were identified by this approach. The overlap between HILIC- and SFC-HRMS was limited (31 compounds), confirming the complementarity of the two methods used. The identified PM candidates are characterized by a high polarity (median logD -0.4 at pH 7.5), a low molecular weight (median 187 g/mol), are mostly ionic (54 compounds) and contain a large number of heteroatoms (one per four carbons on average). Among the most frequently detected novel or yet scarcely investigated water contaminants were cyanoguanidine (11/11 samples), adamantan-1-amine (10/11), trifluoromethanesulfonate (9/11), 2-acrylamido-2-methylpropanesulfonate (10/11), and the inorganic anions hexafluorophosphate (11/11) and tetrafluoroborate (10/11). 31% of the identified suspects are mainly used in ionic liquids, a chemically diverse group of industrial chemicals with numerous applications that is so far rarely studied for their occurrence in the environment. Prioritization of the findings of PM candidates is hampered by the apparent lack of toxicity data. Hence, precautionary principles and minimization approaches should be applied for the risk assessment and risk management of these substances. The large share of novel water contaminants among these findings of the suspect screening indicates that the universe of PM chemicals present in the environment has so far only scarcely been explored. Dedicated analytical methods and screening lists appear essential to close the analytical gap for PM compounds.

Authors: Isabelle Neuwald, Matthias Muschket, Daniel Zahn, Urs Berger, Bettina Seiwert, Till Meier, Jochen Kuckelkorn, Claudia Strobel, Thomas P Knepper, Thorsten Reemtsma
; Full Source: Water research 2021 Sep 10;204:117645. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117645.