Suspect screening and unknown surveillance

Suspect screening or unknown surveillance using liquid chromtography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and spectral databases gives scientists and researchers the confidence to confirm the “known unknowns.”

Monitoring for environmental contaminants in water is essential to ensuring that it is safe to drink and that we are not exposed to toxins from the environment. It is also important for environmental testing labs to ensure that contaminants remain well within permissible regulatory limits.

Due to the wide range of chemical toxins, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals that are emitted into the environment, scientists require comprehensive technology that enables the surveillance of a broad scope of unknown substances, so they can quickly identify a compound and how much is present.

However, timely characterization of the human and ecological risks caused by thousands of existing and emerging contaminants is a challenge because:

  • Many contaminants are not yet known or expected
  • Analytical grade standards may be unavailable

These challenges can limit the effectiveness of targeted methods.

LC-MS/MS enables you to proactively screen for and detect hidden chemicals in the environment. 

Suspect screening allows environmental testing labs to search against a spectral library or database of characterized compounds without the need for analytical grade standards, which saves time and allows a comprehensive characterization of environmental samples. This approach enables the tentative identification of candidate structures via mass spectrometry databases, even in the absence of a reference standard.

The suspect screening and unknown contaminant surveillance workflows available from SCIEX provide scientists with the ability to screen water, soil, plant or assorted environmental samples for the presence of any potential compounds or pollutants. You can identify and measure compounds in a single analysis, and you can also screen suspect analytes against an extensive MS/MS library to gain more confidence in your results. From there, you can develop an effective targeted quantification strategy while using the library data to minimize the likelihood of false-negatives and false-positives.

LC-MS/MS solutions from SCIEX are backed by robust systems and powered by intuitive software that simplifies and streamlines data processing to help you identify what is in your sample, and detect any potential environmental hazards, without spending hours, days or weeks in the laboratory.

Discover the difference between suspect screening and non-targeted screening >


Identification of unknown residues in water



X500R QTOF System

This easy-to-use accurate mass spectrometer system analyzes data faster using the power of SWATH® Acquisition.

SCIEX OS Software

This all-in-one software lets you acquire, process and analyze data, and even generate reports.

QTRAP® systems

Employ the MRM sensitivity of a triple quadrupole system to get even better identification and quantification.

ExionLC™ AC System

Build on this system’s modular design to expand your laboratory's range of applications and analyses.


Learning Center  
Expanding suspect screening and non-targeted identification Download
Screening for legacy and novel PFASs using SCIEX Fluoros Library 2.0 Download
Suspect screening data processing utilizing SCIEX OS Download
Metabolomic profiling of accurate mass LC-MS/MS data to identify unexpected environmental pollutants Download
Screening and identification of unknown contaminants in untreated tap water using a hybrid triple quadrupole linear ion trap LC-MS/MS system Download