Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 1384–1395 | Cite as

Prioritisation of organic contaminants in a river basin using chemical analyses and bioassays

  • Tvrtko Smital
  • Senka Terzić
  • Jovica Lončar
  • Ivan Senta
  • Roko Žaja
  • Marta Popović
  • Iva Mikac
  • Knut-Erik Tollefsen
  • Kevin V. Thomas
  • Marijan AhelEmail author
Research Article


Region-specific contaminant prioritisation is an important prerequisite for sustainable and cost-effective monitoring due to the high number of different contaminants that may be present. Surface water and sediment samples from the Sava River, Croatia, were collected at four locations covering a 150-km-long river section characterised by well-defined pollution gradients. Analysis of contaminant profiles along the pollution gradients was performed by combining toxicity screening using a battery of small-scale or in vitro bioassays, which covered different modes of action, with detailed chemical characterisation based on gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and liquid chromatography/quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS). A large number of contaminants, belonging to different toxicant classes, were identified in both analysed matrices. Analyses of water samples showed that contaminants having polar character occurred in the highest concentrations, while in sediments, contributions from both non-polar and amphiphilic contaminants should be taken into account. Estimated contributions of individual contaminant classes to the overall toxicity indicated that, besides the classical pollutants, a number of emerging contaminants, including surfactants, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and plasticizers, should be taken into consideration in future monitoring activities. This work demonstrates the importance of the integrated chemical and bioanalytical approach for a systematic region-specific pollutant prioritisation. Finally, the results presented in this study confirm that hazard assessment in complex environmental matrices should be directed towards identification of key pollutants, rather than focusing on a priori selected contaminants alone.


River basin Priority contaminants Integrated assessment Bioassays GC/MS LC/MS 



The work presented here has been supported through the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program, Project SfP 982590 – “Assessment of hazardous chemical contamination in the Sava River basin” ( In addition, this work was partially supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, Project Nos: 098-0982934-2745 and 098-0982934-2712 and with institutional funding from the Norwegian Institute for water Research (NIVA). We thank Nenad Muhin for the technical assistance.

Supplementary material

11356_2012_1059_MOESM1_ESM.doc (195 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 195 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tvrtko Smital
    • 1
  • Senka Terzić
    • 1
  • Jovica Lončar
    • 1
  • Ivan Senta
    • 1
  • Roko Žaja
    • 1
  • Marta Popović
    • 1
  • Iva Mikac
    • 1
  • Knut-Erik Tollefsen
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kevin V. Thomas
    • 2
  • Marijan Ahel
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Division for Marine and Environmental ResearchRudjer Boskovic InstituteZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)OsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (IPM)University of Life Sciences (UMB)ÅsNorway

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