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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Indicative Project

Investigtion of emerging contaminants in environmental waters

Background Info

​A wide range of chemicals commonly found in water are now considered to be emerging contaminants, due to their potential for significant impact on human health and the environment. These emerging contaminants are usually detected in environmental waters at concentrations ranging from trace to ppb levels. Most existing toxicity data are based on tests performed on single compounds and for short-term exposure. Therefore, the focus of current research has moved to understand the fate and effects of mixture of compounds, their metabolites and/or transformation by-products, as hydrolysis, photolysis and biotic transformations may lead to the formation of more toxic and persistent contaminants. The development of sensitive multi-residue analytical method for the generalised and non-targeted screening of trace organic contaminants in complex environmental waters is needed.

Project Description

​Emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products and pesticides, have been detected in a wide variety of environmental water samples including surface water,  groundwater and sewage flows. At present pre-targeted screening of emerging contaminants can be performed using triple-quadrupole MS, however this technique cannot achieve sufficiently accurate mass measurement to be used for post – and non-targeted screening. Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography
(UHPLC) coupled with hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOF/MS) has been identified as a preferred technique for qualitative and quantitative testing and non-targeted screening of organic pollutants.

This project would address development and validation of methods to permit generalised extraction of a wide range of compounds from different types of waters, and development and validation of QTOF/ MS methods in elucidating the emerging contaminants and/or their metabolites and transformation byproducts in an aquatic environment.

Examples of Relevant Sudent Courses

Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Organic Chemistry

Student Level

Honours, Masters, PhD


1-3 years


North Ryde (NSW)


Analytical Services


Danny Slee

Email Contact

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