2019 Best Papers published in the Environmental Science journals of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Kristopher McNeill a, Paige J. Novak b and Peter J. Vikesland cde
aInstitute for Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: kris.mcneill@env.ethz.ch
bDepartment of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. E-mail: novak010@umn.edu
cDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. E-mail: pvikes@vt.edu
dVirginia Tech Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) Sustainable Nanotechnology Center (VTSuN), Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
eCenter for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEINT), Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

As we sit down to write this editorial announcing and celebrating the best papers in our journals over the past year, we find ourselves in a strange time. We (KM, PN, PV) are all working from home, hunkered down as part of our respective universities’ efforts to slow the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its associated disease, COVID-19. You the readers, depending on when you read this, are all likely doing the same. This international public health crisis has focused the attention of our global society like nothing else in decades, and this has had the effect of diminishing the apparent importance of almost everything else. Nevertheless, we feel strongly that it is important to go forward and recognize the most excellent, and we believe impactful, papers published within the Environmental Science portfolio in 2019. This is both because it is fair and right to recognize the excellence of our authors and because it is valuable to have some positive news in this anxious and uncertain period.

In 2019, the Royal Society of Chemistry published 180, 196 and 293 papers in Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, and Environmental Science: Nano, respectively. These papers covered a wide range of topics in environmental science, from biogeochemical cycling to water reuse to nanomaterial toxicity. And, yes, we also published papers on the topic of the environmental fate, behavior, and inactivation of viruses.1–10 We are extremely grateful that so many authors have chosen our journals as outlets for publishing their research and are equally delighted at the high quality of the papers that we have had the privilege to publish.

Our Associate Editors, Editorial Boards, and Advisory Boards were enlisted to nominate and select the best papers from 2019. From this list, the three Editors-in-Chief selected an overall best paper from the entire Environmental Science portfolio. It is our pleasure to present the winners of the Best Papers in 2019 to you, our readers.

Overall Best Paper

Johansson, Salter, Acosta Navarro, Leck, Nilsson, Cousins, Global transport of perfluoroalkyl acids via sea spray aerosol, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 635–649, DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00525G.


In this paper, Johansson et al. examine sea spray aerosol as a potential transport vehicle for perfluoroalkyl carboxylic and sulfonic acids. The surfactant properties of these compounds are well known and, in fact, key to many of the technical applications for which they are used. The fact that these compounds are enriched at the air–water interface makes enrichment in sea spray aerosols seem reasonable. Johansson et al. systematically tested various perfluoroalkyl acids enrichment in aerosols under conditions relevant to sea spray formation, finding that longer chain lengths lead to higher aerosol enrichment factors. They augmented their experimental work with a global model, which further bolstered the conclusion that global transport of perfluoroalkyl acids by sea spray aerosol is and will continue to be an important process in determining the global distribution of these compounds.

Journal Best Papers

In addition to our overall Best Paper, we are excited to introduce our readers to the following Best Papers and Best Review Articles for each of the Environmental Science journals.

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts

Best Paper: Johansson, Salter, Acosta Navarro, Leck, Nilsson, Cousins, Global transport of perfluoroalkyl acids via sea spray aerosol, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 635–649, DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00525G.


First Runner-up Best Paper: Yamakawa, Takami, Takeda, Kato, Kajii, Emerging investigator series: investigation of mercury emission sources using Hg isotopic compositions of atmospheric mercury at the Cape Hedo Atmosphere and Aerosol Monitoring Station (CHAAMS), Japan, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 809–818, DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00590G.


Second Runner-up Best Paper: Avery, Waring, DeCarlo, Seasonal variation in aerosol composition and concentration upon transport from the outdoor to indoor environment, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 528–547, DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00471D.


Best Review Article: Cousins, Ng, Wang, Scheringer, Why is high persistence alone a major cause of concern?Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 781–792, DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00515J.

Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology

Best Paper: Parrish, Fahrenfeld, Microplastic biofilm in fresh- and wastewater as a function of microparticle type and size class, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 495–505, DOI: 10.1039/C8EW00712H.


First Runner-up Best Paper: Yang, Lin, Tse, Dong, Yu, Hoffmann, Membrane-separated electrochemical latrine wastewater treatment, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 51–59, DOI: 10.1039/C8EW00698A.


Second Runner-up Best Paper: Genter, Marks, Clair-Caliot, Mugume, Johnston, Bain, Julian, Evaluation of the novel substrate RUG™ for the detection of Escherichia coli in water from temperate (Zurich, Switzerland) and tropical (Bushenyi, Uganda) field sites, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1082–1091, DOI: 10.1039/C9EW00138G.


Best Review Article: Okoffo, O’Brien, O’Brien, Tscharke, Thomas, Wastewater treatment plants as a source of plastics in the environment: a review of occurrence, methods for identification, quantification and fate, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1908–1931, DOI: 10.1039/C9EW00428A.

Environmental Science: Nano

Best Paper: Majumdar, Pagano, Wohlschlegel, Villani, Zappettini, White, Keller, Proteomic, gene and metabolite characterization reveal the uptake and toxicity mechanisms of cadmium sulfide quantum dots in soybean plants, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2019, 6, 3010–3026, DOI: 10.1039/C9EN00599D.


First Runner-up Best Paper: Janković, Plata, Engineered nanomaterials in the context of global element cycles, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2019, 6, 2697–2711, DOI: 10.1039/C9EN00322C.


Second Runner-up Best Paper: González-Pleiter, Tamayo-Belda, Pulido-Reyes, Amariei, Leganés, Rosal, Fernández-Piñas, Secondary nanoplastics released from a biodegradable microplastic severely impact freshwater environments, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2019, 6, 1382–1392, DOI: 10.1039/C8EN01427B.


Best Review Article: Lv, Christie, Zhang, Uptake, translocation, and transformation of metal-based nanoparticles in plants: recent advances and methodological challenges, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2019, 6, 41–59, DOI: 10.1039/C8EN00645H.


Congratulations to the authors of these papers and a hearty thanks to all of our authors. As one can clearly see from the papers listed above, environmental science is a global effort and we are thrilled to have contributions from around the world. In these challenging times, we are proud to publish research that is not only great science, but also relevant to the health of the environment and the public. Finally, we also wish to extend our thanks to our community of editors, reviewers, and readers. We look forward to another outstanding year of Environmental Science, reading the work generated not just from our offices at home, but also from back in our laboratories and the field.


Kris McNeill, Editor-in-Chief

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts

Paige Novak, Editor-in-Chief

Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology

Peter Vikesland, Editor-in-Chief

Environmental Science: Nano


  1. A. B. Boehm, Risk-based water quality thresholds for coliphages in surface waters: effect of temperature and contamination aging, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 2031–2041,  10.1039/C9EM00376B.
  2. L. Cai, C. Liu, G. Fan, C. Liu and X. Sun, Preventing viral disease by ZnONPs through directly deactivating TMV and activating plant immunity in Nicotiana benthamiana, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2019, 6, 3653–3669,  10.1039/C9EN00850K.
  3. L. W. Gassie, J. D. Englehardt, N. E. Brinkman, J. Garland and M. K. Perera, Ozone-UV net-zero water wash station for remote emergency response healthcare units: design, operation, and results, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1971–1984,  10.1039/C9EW00126C.
  4. L. M. Hornstra, T. Rodrigues da Silva, B. Blankert, L. Heijnen, E. Beerendonk, E. R. Cornelissen and G. Medema, Monitoring the integrity of reverse osmosis membranes using novel indigenous freshwater viruses and bacteriophages, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1535–1544,  10.1039/C9EW00318E.
  5. A. H. Hassaballah, J. Nyitrai, C. H. Hart, N. Dai and L. M. Sassoubre, A pilot-scale study of peracetic acid and ultraviolet light for wastewater disinfection, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1453–1463,  10.1039/C9EW00341J.
  6. W. Khan, J.-Y. Nam, H. Woo, H. Ryu, S. Kim, S. K. Maeng and H.-C. Kim, A proof of concept study for wastewater reuse using bioelectrochemical processes combined with complementary post-treatment technologies, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1489–1498,  10.1039/C9EW00358D.
  7. J. Heffron, B. McDermid and B. K. Mayer, Bacteriophage inactivation as a function of ferrous iron oxidation, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 1309–1317,  10.1039/C9EW00190E.
  8. S. Torii, T. Hashimoto, A. T. Do, H. Furumai and H. Katayama, Impact of repeated pressurization on virus removal by reverse osmosis membranes for household water treatment, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 910–919,  10.1039/C8EW00944A.
  9. J. Miao, H.-J. Jiang, Z.-W. Yang, D.-y. Shi, D. Yang, Z.-Q. Shen, J. Yin, Z.-G. Qiu, H.-R. Wang, J.-W. Li and M. Jin, Assessment of an electropositive granule media filter for concentrating viruses from large volumes of coastal water, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 325–333,  10.1039/C8EW00699G.
  10. K. L. Nelson, A. B. Boehm, R. J. Davies-Colley, M. C. Dodd, T. Kohn, K. G. Linden, Y. Liu, P. A. Maraccini, K. McNeill, W. A. Mitch, T. H. Nguyen, K. M. Parker, R. A. Rodriguez, L. M. Sassoubre, A. I. Silverman, K. R. Wigginton and R. G. Zepp, Sunlight mediated inactivation of health relevant microorganisms in water: a review of mechanisms and modeling approaches, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2018, 20, 1089–1122,  10.1039/C8EM00047F.

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