Enhanced selectivity for acidic contaminants in drinking water: From suspect screening to toxicity prediction

Davide Ciccarelli, D. Christopher Braddock, Andrew J. Surman, Blanca Ivonne Vergara Arenas, Tara Salal, Timothy H. Marczylo, Paolo Vineis, Leon P. Barron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


A novel analytical workflow for suspect screening of organic acidic contaminants in drinking water is presented, featuring selective extraction by silica-based strong anion-exchange solid-phase extraction, mixed-mode liquid chromatography-high resolution accurate mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS), peak detection, feature reduction and compound identification. The novel use of an ammonium bicarbonate-based elution solvent extended strong anion-exchange solid-phase extraction applicability to LC-HRMS of strong acids. This approach performed with consistently higher recovery and repeatability (88 ± 7 % at 500 ng L-1), improved selectivity and lower matrix interference (mean = 12 %) over a generic mixed-mode weak anion exchange SPE method. In addition, a novel filter for reducing full-scan features from fulvic and humic acids was successfully introduced, reducing workload and potential for false positives. The workflow was then applied to 10 London municipal drinking water samples, revealing the presence of 22 confirmed and 37 tentatively identified substances. Several poorly investigated and potentially harmful compounds were found which included halogenated hydroxy-cyclopentene-diones and dibromomethanesulfonic acid. Some of these compounds have been reported as mutagenic in test systems and thus their presence here requires further investigation. Overall, this approach demonstrated that employing selective extraction improved detection and helped shortlist suspects and potentially toxic chemical contaminants with higher confidence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130906
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date31 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2023


  • Disinfectant by-products
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Feature reduction
  • High-resolution mass spectrometry
  • Perfluorinated acids
  • Strong anion exchange


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