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Time-of-Flight and Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry for Identifying Unknown Contaminants and Degradation Products in the Environment

Environment: Water and Waste

  1. Félix Hernández,
  2. Juan Vicente Sancho,
  3. María Ibáñez,
  4. Tania Portolés

Published Online: 15 DEC 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a9233

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Hernández, F., Sancho, J. V., Ibáñez, M. and Portolés, T. 2011. Time-of-Flight and Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry for Identifying Unknown Contaminants and Degradation Products in the Environment. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. University Jaume I, Research Institute for Pesticides and Water, Castellón, Spain

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2011


Modern analytical methodologies to face with large number of organic contaminants with quite different physicochemical characteristics are required in environmental analysis, where an increasing number of potentially hazardous compounds may be present in samples. Conventional target analysis does not provide a complete overview of the organic pollution pattern, even when focused on priority pollutants, and the need arises for developing analytical methodology able to detecting and identifying as many contaminants as possible in a sample. Wide-scope target screening (i.e. searching for thousands of contaminants) is one of the most attractive approaches in this field, but searching for nontarget (unknown) compounds is also required as a complementary tool. A true nontarget approach does not use any previous information on the compounds to be searched; it involves at a first-stage automated peak detection and MS spectra deconvolution of the component detected. Nontarget environmental analysis in many cases pursues the searching of degradation products, as the knowledge on their presence and effects in the environment is still limited.

TOF MS is an efficient technique to perform both challenging tasks. It provides full-spectrum acquisition data at accurate mass, which are highly useful for identification and elucidation purposes. TOF MS can be coupled to both LC and GC, widening the coverage of compounds to be investigated. In addition, as full-spectrum accurate-mass data remain available after sample injection, a retrospective analysis to investigate the presence of other compounds without the need of new analysis is feasible. This chapter deals with the application of GC TOF MS and LC (Q)TOF MS for screening and identification/elucidation of organic contaminants and degradation products in environmental samples, mainly in water. Illustrative examples are shown from wide-scope target screening to nontarget analysis.