Adding Complex Expert Knowledge into Chemical Databases: Transforming Surfactants in Wastewater
PRESENTED by Emma Schymanski
The increasing popularity of high mass accuracy non-target mass spectrometry methods has yielded extensive identification efforts based on chemical compound databases. Candidate structures are often retrieved with either exact mass or molecular formula from large resources such as PubChem, ChemSpider or the EPA CompTox Chemistry Dashboard. Additional data (e.g. fragmentation, physicochemical properties, reference and data source information) is then used to select potential candidates, depending on the experimental context. However, these strategies require the presence of substances of interest in these compound databases, which is often not the case as no database can be fully inclusive. A prominent example with clear data gaps are surfactants, used in many products in our daily lives, yet often absent as discrete structures in compound databases. Linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS) are a common, high use and high priority surfactant class that have highly complex transformation behaviour in wastewater. Despite extensive reports in the environmental literature, few of the LAS and none of the related transformation products were reported in any compound databases during an investigation into Swiss wastewater effluents, despite these forming the most intense signals. The LAS surfactant class will be used to demonstrate how the coupling of environmental observations with high resolution mass spectrometry and detailed literature data (expert knowledge) on the transformation of these species can be used to progressively “fill the gaps” in compound databases. The LAS and their transformation products have been added to the CompTox Chemistry Dashboard (https://comptox.epa.gov/) using a combination of “representative structures” and “related structures” starting from the structural information contained in the literature. By adding this information into a centralized open resource, future environmental investigations can now profit from the expert knowledge previously scattered throughout the literature. Note: This abstract does not reflect US EPA policy.