Non-Target Screening enables the rapid, reliable determination of chemicals in a sample. House dust, for instance, contains hundreds to thousands of different compounds, among plasticizers and fire retardants; these substances can leach out from furniture, toys and computers and people are continually exposed to them.
Using a combination of chromatography (for the separation) and mass spectrometry (for the analysis), the Department of Environment and Health can identify different industrial chemicals in various types of samples (e.g. sediment, water, dust, organisms). The department build mass spectrometry libraries, containing thousands of compounds, for the screening of chemicals. The researchers can find the source of the pollutants by simultaneously testing the composition of equipment and furniture.
The next step is to test these substances on their own, and together, for their toxicity. Based on studies of this kind, industry and policymakers can decide whether to withdraw chemicals from the market or to allow their production under specific conditions. Consumers, for their part, can modify their behaviour in such a way as to reduce exposure to these micropollutants.