A new strategy for preparing composite samples of special interest and applicability in environmental screening studies is presented. The use of supersaturated experimental design matrices to conduct the sample composition of water sample specimens in screening studies is demonstrated. In contrast to well known conventional sample composition, this strategic approach provides analytical objects allowing the accurate prediction of analyte concentration levels in the original individual sample specimens while fixing the number of experiments to be carried out down to the very number of sample specimens. This will be of special importance when dealing with analytes that require complicated, labour intensive and expensive analytical processes. To reach this goal, two main conditions must be fulfilled. The first one is the sparsity effect (Pareto principle) which holds for the specimens in the sampling campaign. This means that the number of really anomalous or contaminated
specimens, as compared to the total number of specimens to be analysed, is low. In environmental screening studies, frequently this situation can be reasonably assumed. The second condition is to have an effective manner to develop and solve the experimental designs required to build-up the composite samples. The challenging problem of screening PCBs in water samples has been tackled to show the usefulness of this strategic approach by combining chemometrically assisted sample composition and rapid analysis using solid-phase microextraction of the composite samples.
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