Analysis of Emerging Environmental Contaminants
Contaminants of emerging concern are major scientific and political issues. Many have been detected in air, water, soil and biota, and most are identified and quantified using nonstandardized methods, often with limited or questionable quality assurance and quality control. At times, public policy and resource allocation are based on these uncertain data. There are thousands of potential contaminants for which no analytical methodologies have been developed. Through this course, students become familiar with the diversity of analytical (instrumental) and bioanalytical (bioassay) tools currently available, and discover the pros and cons of each approach. The class also discusses future opportunities, such as development of online sensors and miniaturization of environmental methods. While the emphasis of the course is on water analysis, the class also briefly discusses implications for other environmental matrices, such as biosolids, sediments, solids, tissues, body fluids and aerosols. Contaminants are discussed in terms of classes (such as pharmaceuticals, steroid hormones, nanoparticles, metals, disinfection byproducts) and physical chemical properties (such as water solubility, pH, volatility, molecular weight and molecular geometry). This class provides a hands-on experience with key instrument platforms, such as gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection, inductively coupled plasma with mass spectrometric detection, liquid chromatography with diode array UV, fluorescence and mass spectrometric detection. Cellular and whole animal bioassays for the screening of complex mixtures of contaminants are discussed and demonstrated. Key principles of toxicity identification and evaluation are covered, along with real-world examples of how to determine causes of observed environmental toxicity. Students work independently and in groups to investigate a key issue relative to environmental analysis, write a paper on this topic, and present and defend their findings before the class.