Nontarget Screening with High Resolution Mass Spectrometry in the Environment: Ready to Go?


The vast, diverse universe of organic pollutants is a formidable challenge for environmental sciences, engineering, and regulation. Nontarget screening (NTS) based on high resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) has enormous potential to help characterize this universe, but is it ready to go for real world applications? In this Feature article we argue that development of mass spectrometers with increasingly high resolution and novel couplings to both liquid and gas chromatography, combined with the integration of high performance computing, have significantly widened our analytical window and have enabled increasingly sophisticated data processing strategies, indicating a bright future for NTS. NTS has great potential for treatment assessment and pollutant prioritization within regulatory applications, as highlighted here by the case of real-time pollutant monitoring on the River Rhine. We discuss challenges for the future, including the transition from research toward solution-centered and robust, harmonized applications.