Suspect and non-target screening: the last frontier in environmental analysis†
Suspect and non-target screening (SNTS) techniques are arising as new analytical strategies useful to disentangle the environmental occurrence of the thousands of exogenous chemicals present in our ecosystems. The unbiased discovery of the wide number of substances present over environmental analysis needs to find a consensus with powerful technical and computational requirements, as well as with the time-consuming unequivocal identification of discovered analytes. Within these boundaries, the potential applications of SNTS include the studies of environmental pollution in aquatic, atmospheric, solid and biological samples, the assessment of new compounds, transformation products and metabolites, contaminant prioritization, bioremediation or soil/water treatment evaluation, and retrospective data analysis, among many others. In this review, we evaluate the state of the art of SNTS techniques going over the normalized workflow from sampling and sample treatment to instrumental analysis, data processing and a brief review of the more recent applications of SNTS in environmental occurrence and exposure to xenobiotics. The main issues related to harmonization and knowledge gaps are critically evaluated and the challenges of their implementation are assessed in order to ensure a proper use of these promising techniques in the near future.