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"EMERGING" Pollutants, and Communicating the Science of Environmental Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry: Pharmaceuticals in the Environment

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Abstract:This paper weaves a rnulti-dimensioned perspective of mass spectrometry as a career against the backdrop of mass spectrometry's key role in the past and future of environmental chemistry. Along the way, some insights are offered for better focusing the spotlight on the discipline of mass spectrometry.

A Foundation for Environmental Science-Mass Spectrometry Historically fundamental to our understanding of environmental processes and chemical pollution is mass spectrometry. This branch of analytical chemistry is the workhorse which supplies much of the definitive data to environmental scientists and engineers for identifying the molecular compositions, and ultimately the structures, of chemicals. This is not to ignore the complementary and critical roles played by the adjunct practices of sample enrichment (e.g., to lower method detection limits via any of various means of selective extraction) and analyte separation (e.g., to lessen contaminant interferences via the myriad forms of chromatography and electrophoresis).
While the power of mass spectrometry has long been highly visible to the practicing environmental chemist, it borders on continued obscurity to the lay public and most non-chemists. Even though mass spectrometry has played a long, historic and Largely invisible role in establishing or undergirding our existing knowledge about environmental processes and pollution, what recognition it does enjoy is usually relegated to that of a tool. It is usually the relevance or significance of the knowledge acquired from the application of the tool that has ultimate meaning to the public and science at large, not how the knowledge was acquired.

Communicating Science - Mass Spectrometry and the Risk- Paradigm
Protecting human and ecological health from chemical hazards is rooted in assessing and managing/controlling chemical risks, a process requiring data from many aspects of the risk Paradigm. Comprising this Paradigm are a series of inter-related steps or activities, such as identifying sources, establishing environmental occurrence, elucidating fate and transport, verifying exposure or effects (eg., bio-markers), and developing remediation/control technologies. Mass spectrometry plays a critical, direct role in all of them, except the actual step of assessing risk (Figure 1). Mass spectrometry is essential to obtaining data required for establishing environmental source/origin, occurrence (identities concentrations), fate and transport including that for all associated transformation products), exposure (including measurement of biomarkers), effects (including receptor interactions and metabolites).
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Citation:Daughton, C. G. "EMERGING" Pollutants, and Communicating the Science of Environmental Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry: Pharmaceuticals in the Environment. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR MASS SPECTROMETRY 12(10):1067-1076, (2001).
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Environmental Chemistry Branch
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 07/31/2001
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Addressing Emerging Issues in Water Quality Through Environmental Chemistry
spacer Relationship Reason:   A Project of the Product
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