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Use of QuEChERS as a manual and automated high-throughput protocol for investigating environmental matrices
Chemosphere, Volume: 308, Start page: 136313
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Environmental pollution has strong links to adverse human health outcomes with risks of pollution through production, use, ineffective wastewater (WW) remediation, and/or leachate from landfill. ‘Fit-for-purpose’ monitoring approaches are critical for better pollution control and mitigation of harm,...
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Environmental pollution has strong links to adverse human health outcomes with risks of pollution through production, use, ineffective wastewater (WW) remediation, and/or leachate from landfill. ‘Fit-for-purpose’ monitoring approaches are critical for better pollution control and mitigation of harm, with current sample preparation methods for complex environmental matrices typically time-consuming and labour intensive, unsuitable for high-throughput screening.This study has shown that a modified ‘Quick Easy Cheap Effective Rugged and Safe’ (QuEChERS) sample preparation is a viable alternative for selected environmental matrices required for pollution monitoring (e.g. WW effluent, treated sludge cake and homogenised biota tissue). As a manual approach, reduced extraction times (hours to ∼20 min/sample) with largely reproducible (albeit lower) recoveries of a range of pharmaceuticals and biocidal surfactants have been reported. Its application has shown clear differentiation of matrices via chemometrics, and the measurement of pollutants of interest to the UK WW industry at concentrations significantly above suggested instrument detection limits (IDL) for sludge, indicating insufficient removal and/or bioaccumulation during WW treatment. Furthermore, new pollutant candidates of emerging concern were identified – these included detergents, polymers and pharmaceuticals, with quaternary ammonium compound (QAC) biocides observed at 2.3–70.4 mg/kg, and above levels associated with priority substances for environmental quality regulation (EQSD). Finally, the QuEChERS protocol was adapted to function as a fully automated workflow, further reducing the resource to complete both the preparation and analysis to <40 min. This operated with improved recovery for soil and biota (>62%), and when applied to a largely un-investigated clay matrix, acceptable recovery (88.0–131.1%) and precision (≤10.3% RSD) for the tested pharmaceuticals and biocides was maintained. Therefore, this preliminary study has shown the successful application of a high-throughput QuEChERS protocol across a range of environmental solids for potential deployment in a regulated laboratory.
Environmental monitoring; Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry; Medicinal compounds; QuEChERS; Chemometrics; High-throughput
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
The authors acknowledge support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (Grant numbers: EP/L504865/1 and EP/K502935/1), Biotage, UK and Anatune Ltd in delivering this work.