A miniaturized passive sampling-based workflow for monitoring chemicals of emerging concern in water

Alexandra K. Richardson, Rachel C. Irlam, Helena Rapp Wright, Graham A. Mills, Gary R. Fones, Stephen R. Stürzenbaum, David A. Cowan, David J. Neep, Leon P. Barron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The miniaturization of a full workflow for identification and monitoring of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) is presented. Firstly, successful development of a low-cost small 3D-printed passive sampler device (3D-PSD), based on a two-piece methacrylate housing that held up to five separate 9 mm disk sorbents, is discussed. Secondly, a highly sensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method reduced the need for large scale in-laboratory apparatus, solvent, reagents and reference material quantities for in-laboratory passive sampler device (PSD) calibration and extraction. Using hydrophilic-lipophilic balanced sorbents, sampling rates (Rs) were determined after a low 50 ng L−1 exposure over seven days for 39 pesticides, pharmaceuticals, drug metabolites and illicit drugs over the range 0.3 to 12.3 mL day−1. The high sensitivity LC-MS/MS method enabled rapid analysis of river water using only 10 μL of directly injected sample filtrate to measure occurrence of 164 CECs and sources along 19 sites on the River Wandle, (London, UK). The new 3D-PSD was then field-tested over seven days at the site with the highest number and concentration of CECs, which was down-river from a wastewater treatment plant. Almost double the number of CECs were identified in 3D-PSD extracts across sites in comparison to water samples (80 versus 42 CECs, respectively). Time-weighted average CEC concentrations ranged from 8.2 to 845 ng L−1, which were generally comparable to measured concentrations in grab samples. Lastly, high resolution mass spectrometry-based suspect screening of 3D-PSD extracts enabled 113 additional compounds to be tentatively identified via library matching, many of which are currently or are under consideration for the EU Watch List. This miniaturized workflow represents a new, cost-effective, and more practically efficient means to perform passive sampling chemical monitoring at a large scale. Synopsis: Miniaturized, low cost, multi-disk passive samplers enabled more efficient multi-residue chemical contaminant characterization, potentially for large-scale monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156260
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2022


  • Direct-injection LC-MS/MS
  • Miniaturization
  • Passive sampling
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Suspect screening


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