Since 1800, the number of known compounds is increasing exponentially and new substances are continuously developed, registered, produced and commercially applied on the market. In line with this development and the development of better analytical instruments, new compounds and their transformation products are continuously discovered in the environment. Depending on their toxicity, persistency and bioaccumulation, they can have negative effects on the environment including plants, animals and human health.
In the field of environmental monitoring, there has been an effort in developing analytical techniques and covering priority substances. In classic target analysis of known pollutants, a list of substances for which calibration standards are available, is analyzed and evaluated.
The large number of organic micropollutants, their transformation products or metabolites, however, cannot be addressed by this traditional approach. In contrast, non-target analysis allows to cover a very large number of organic pollutants and helps to address previously undetected or fully unknown substances. The principal of the non-target screening (NTS) – a semi-quantitative method –, is based on screening and identification. This provides valuable approaches for environmental monitoring and application in warning systems.
In recent years, NTS methodology has been further developed. NTS is realized by means of liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS/MS). However, up to now, each laboratory acquires and analyses data individually, which is time-consuming and complicates the comparability of data. There is a need for an efficient data and information exchange and for standardization.