Water's secret scents

An entirely new approach to testing water can reveal the presence of trace quantities of non-polar and semi-polar organic pollutants, according to research published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. Environmental and industrial water samples can contain a wide range of contaminants. So, researchers in Spain are using a polymer-coated stir bar in their sample vessel with a pinch of salt and some methanol, all heated overnight to encourage contaminants to be absorbed on to the polymer. Gas chromatographic separation over contaminants released by heating the polymer the next day can then feed into a mass spectrometer and give them signals on even the tiniest quantities of pollutants, below 1 nanogram per liter. Proof of principle was undertaken on samples from the Henares River, which revealed personal care products such as fragrances to be the most abundant and persistent contaminants in the river water samples.