Latest Updates

Here you can read about our latest publications and projects.

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Denice and Saer are participating in ICNTS 21 in Erding Germany.

September 30 2021

In the recent years, there were several very successful
workshops for Non-Target Screening (NTS), which
started in 2016 at the Non-Target meeting in Ascona,
continuing with ‘SWEMSA 2016’ in Garching, many
SETAC meetings, ACS, RCS and GDCh events, SWEMSA
2019 in Erding and lastly digital 2020 at the ‘Analytica’
as well as at the ‘GC meets NTS’ in early 2021.
Now, Non-Target Screening and its applications are in
the focus of its own INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
This conference will bring together leading international
scientists from various consortia and disciplines. It is the
ideal location for free lab, industrial and academic
researchers to exchange information with other
colleagues internationally, interdisciplinary and inter-
professionally. NTS users from all over the world,
vendors from the field of instrumental analysis and
software developments will present their latest results
and ideas in keynote lectures, lecture sessions and
poster sessions.
The ICNTS 21 is being held as a hybrid conference
(online and on-site in Erding, Germany) between
04. – 07. October 2021.

Program: https://afin-ts.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/ICNTS-Program2109-1.pdf




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In-sewer stability of selected analgesics and their metabolites

September 21 2021

Understanding the in-sewer stability of analgesic biomarkers is important for interpreting wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) data to estimate community-wide analgesic drugs consumption. The in-sewer stability of a suite of 19 analgesics and their metabolites was assessed using lab-scale sewer reactors. Target biomarkers were spiked into wastewater circulating in simulated gravity, rising main and control (no biofilm) sewer reactors. In-sewer transformation was observed over a hydraulic retention time of 12 h. All investigated biomarkers were stable under control reactor conditions. In gravity sewer conditions, diclofenac, desmetramadol, ibuprofen carboxylic acid, ketoprofen, lidocaine and tapentadol were highly stable (0–20% transformation in 12 h). Valdecoxib, parecoxib, etoricoxib, indomethacin, naltrexone, naloxone, piroxicam, ketoprofen, lidocaine, tapentadol, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone were considered as moderately stable biomarkers (20–50% transformation in 12 h). Celecoxib and sulindac were considered unstable biomarkers (>50% transformation in 12 h). Ketoprofen, lidocaine, tapentadol, meperidine, hydromorphone were transformed to 0–20% whereas diclofenac, desmetramadol, ibuprofen carboxylic acid, valdecoxib, parecoxib, etoricoxib, indomethacin, naltrexone, piroxicam were transformed up to 20–50% in 12 h in rising main reactor (RMR). These biomarkers were considered as highly stable and stable biomarkers in RMR, respectively. Sulindac, celecoxib, naloxone, oxymorphone and hydrocodone were transformed more than 50% in 12 h and considered as unstable biomarkers in RMR. This study provides the information for a better understanding of the in-sewer loss of the analgesics before using them in WBE biomarkers for estimating drug loads at the population level.

Doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117647





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A novel method for the quantification of tire and polymer-modified bitumen particles in environmental samples by pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectroscopy

September 3 2021

Tire and road wear particles may constitute the largest source of microplastic particles into the environment. Quantification of these particles are associated with large uncertainties which are in part due to inadequate analytical methods. New methodology is presented in this work to improve the analysis of tire and road wear particles using pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Pyrolysis gas chromatography mass spectrometry of styrene butadiene styrene, a component of polymer-modified bitumen used on road asphalt, produces pyrolysis products identical to those of styrene butadiene rubber and butadiene rubber, which are used in tires. The proposed method uses multiple marker compounds to measure the combined mass of these rubbers in samples and includes an improved step of calculating the amount of tire and road based on the measured rubber content and site-specific traffic data. The method provides good recoveries of 83–92% for a simple matrix (tire) and 88–104% for a complex matrix (road sediment). The validated method was applied to urban snow, road-side soil and gully-pot sediment samples. Concentrations of tire particles in these samples ranged from 0.1 to 17.7 mg/mL (snow) to 0.6–68.3 mg/g (soil/sediment). The concentration of polymer-modified bitumen ranged from 0.03 to 0.42 mg/mL (snow) to 1.3–18.1 mg/g (soil/sediment).

Doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.127092





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Inter-laboratory mass spectrometry dataset based on passive sampling of drinking water for non-target analysis

August 24 2021

Non-target analysis (NTA) employing high-resolution mass spectrometry is a commonly applied approach for the detection of novel chemicals of emerging concern in complex environmental samples. NTA typically results in large and information-rich datasets that require computer aided (ideally automated) strategies for their processing and interpretation. Such strategies do however raise the challenge of reproducibility between and within different processing workflows. An effective strategy to mitigate such problems is the implementation of inter-laboratory studies (ILS) with the aim to evaluate different workflows and agree on harmonized/standardized quality control procedures. Here we present the data generated during such an ILS. This study was organized through the Norman Network and included 21 participants from 11 countries. A set of samples based on the passive sampling of drinking water pre and post treatment was shipped to all the participating laboratories for analysis, using one pre-defined method and one locally (i.e. in-house) developed method. The data generated represents a valuable resource (i.e. benchmark) for future developments of algorithms and workflows for NTA experiments.

Doi: 10.1038/s41597-021-01002-w





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Plastic in archived biosolids

June 16 2021

Plastics are ubiquitous contaminants that leak into the environment from multiple pathways including the use of treated sewage sludge (biosolids). Seven common plastics (polymers) were quantified in the solid fraction of archived biosolids samples from Australia and the United Kingdom from between 1950 and 2016. Six plastics were detected, with increasing concentrations observed over time for each plastic. Biosolids plastic concentrations correlated with plastic production estimates, implying a potential link between plastics production, consumption and leakage into the environment. Prior to the 1990s, the leakage of plastics into biosolids was limited except for polystyrene. Increased leakage was observed from the 1990s onwards; potentially driven by increased consumption of polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride. We show that looking back in time along specific plastic pollution pathways may help unravel the potential sources of plastics leakage into the environment and provide quantitative evidence to support the development of source control interventions or regulations.

Doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2021.117367

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Plastic in rice

April 16 2021

This study investigated mass concentrations of selected plastics in store-bought rice, the staple of more than half the world’s population. Polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, poly-(methyl methacrylate), polypropylene, polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride were quantified using pressurized liquid extraction coupled to double-shot pyrolysis gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Polyethylene, polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were quantifiable in the rice samples with polyethylene the most frequently detected (95%). There was no statistical difference between total plastic concentration in paper and plastic packaged rice. Shaking the rice in its packaging had no significant difference on the concentration of plastics. Washing the rice with water significantly reduced plastic contamination. Instant (pre-cooked) rice contained fourfold higher levels of plastics, suggesting that industrial processing potentially increases contamination. A preliminary estimate of the intake of plastic through rice consumption for Australians established 3.7 mg per serve (100 g) if not washed and 2.8 mg if washed.

Annual consumption was estimated around 1 g/person.

Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.125778

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Out of sight but not out of mind

March 20 2021


Microplastics contamination has been widely reported in filter feeders yet the < 1 µm size fraction has been largely ignored. In attempt to characterize this sub 1 µm size fraction and better understand the size distribution of microplastics contamination in filter feeders, field deployed oysters were characterised using a combination of size fractionation combined with pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) as well as Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectroscopy (µFT-IR). Sequential filtration followed by Py-GC/MS identified the 1 to 22 µm fraction to contain the highest total plastic mass concentration (Ʃ31 mg/g), followed by the <1 µm fraction (Ʃ7.7 mg/g) and the >22 µm fraction (Ʃ0.1 mg/g). µFT-IR identified 0.2 particles/g tissue but was limited to particles >150 µm in size. Our results clearly show that an important size fraction of microplastics is being overlooked in almost all studies published to date that rely on FTIR for polymer identification.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hazl.2021.100021

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Quality assessment of NTA workflows

October 30 2020

The application of non-target analysis (NTA), a comprehensive approach to characterize unknown chemicals, including chemicals of emerging concern has seen a steady increase recently. Given the relative novelty of this type of analysis, robust quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) measures are imperative to ensure quality and consistency of results obtained using different workflows. Due to fundamental differences to established targeted workflows, new or expanded approaches are necessary; for example to minimize the risk of losing potential substances of interest (i.e. false negatives, Type II error). We present an overview of QA/QC techniques for NTA workflows published to date, specifically focusing

on the analysis of environmental samples using liquid chromatography coupled to HRMS.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trac.2020.116063

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Our paper made it to the cover of ES&T Letters 

April 12, 2020

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Concentration of plastics in domestic laundry dryers

April 12, 2020

Concentration of plastics in domestic laundry dryers

In this study published in STOTEN the concentration of fibers generated from the domestic laundry dryers and their emission were assessed.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141175

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The Economist and HIMS coverage of our publication in Environ. Sci. Technol. Letters

April 12, 2020

Population Socioeconomics Predicted Using Wastewater

The Economist London  and HIMS covered our latest study published (open access) in Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett, where we successfully predicted several socioeconomical parameters across Australia using the mass loads of chemicals in the wastewater.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00392

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Concentration of plastics in seafood

April 12, 2020

Quantitative analysis of plastics in Australian seafood

In this study published in Environ. Sci. Technol. the authors successfully measured the concentrations of several selected plastics in high value seafood from Australia.