Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)

Characterization and monitoring of persistent organic pollutants, mainly released to the environment by industrial activity, is functional for the scientific understanding as well as the Federal administration. More than 100’000 chemicals are used in a wide variety of consumer products. Thousands of these compounds are persistent, bio accumulative and toxic (PBT) and can be detected in different type of environmental matrices. Today 28 compounds or compound groups are listed under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POP) including polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PCDD/F), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and brominated diphenyl ethers (BDEs).

Our research helps to detect sources of environmental contamination, and provide continuing support in case of contaminated sites and restoration. We have more than 25 years of experience in field sampling, method development, quantitative determination of POPs, as well as their risk assessment and are contract respectively project partner for national and cantonal authorities like the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) and others.

The laboratory for Advanced Analytical Technologies provide the quantitative analysis of POP in a wide variety of materials, environmental matrices and human specimens at ultra-trace levels, assessing the potential risk of human exposure to POPs in a wide variety of substances and sample matrices, e.g. polymers, soil, water, air, sediment, sewage sludge, human breast milk, blood, serum, feed, food, stack emissions, hazardous industrial and home fires etc.



For the quantitative determination of persistent organic pollutants at ultra-trace levels in environmental matrices, feed and food generally gas chromatography coupled to high resolution mass spectrometry is used. This technique can be considered as the "gold-standard" in the field of quantitative determination of the highly toxic POP class of polyhalogenated dibenzodioxins and furans (PXDD/F), as well as the dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (dl-PCBs).

We operate magnetic sector field instruments and the state-of-the-art Q-Exactive Orbitrap GC-MS/MS, providing mass resolving power well above 100’000. Apart of measuring legacy POP at ultra-trace level, the ultra-high resolution of the newest Orbitrap GC/MS uniquely enables us to spot new emerging POP, e.g. short-chain and medium-chain chlorinated paraffins (CPs), which due to the existence of several thousands of isomers can’t be properly separated by mass resolutions below 60’000. Additionally the Orbitrap GC/MS opens the window to high resolution non-target analysis in the field of environmental and material research.




Zennegg et al. (2016) zu „Messung von PCB und Dioxinen in Fliessgewässern“ BAFU Bericht P. Schmid, Zennegg et al. (2010) zu „Polychlorierte Biphenyle (PCB) in Gewässern der Schweiz“ BAFU Bericht


Sorg, O., Zennegg, M., Schmid, P., Fedosyuk, R., Valikhnovskyi, R., Gaide, O., Kniazevych, V., Saurat, J.-H. 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) poisoning in Victor Yushchenko: identification and meas-urement of TCDD metabolites (2009) The Lancet, 374 (9696), pp. 1179-1185.


Weber, R., Gaus, C., Tysklind, M., Johnston, P., Forter, M., Hollert, H., Heinisch, E., Holoubek, I., Lloyd-Smith, M., Masunaga, S., Moccarelli, P., Santillo, D., Seike, N., Symons, R., Torres, J.P.M., Verta, M., Varbelow, G., Vijgen, J., Watson, A., Costner, P., Woelz, J., Wycisk, P., Zennegg, M. Dioxin- and POP-contaminated sites - Contemporary and future relevance and challenges: Overview on background, aims and scope of the series (2008) Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 15 (5), pp. 363-393.


Strobel, A., Schmid, P., Burkhardt-Holm, P., Segner, H., Zennegg, M. Persistent organic pollutants in red- and white-blooded High-Antarctic notothenioid fish from the remote Weddell Sea (2018) Chemosphere, 193, pp. 213-222.


Zennegg, M., Schluep, M., Streicher-Porte, M., Lienemann, P., Haag, R., Gerecke, A.C. Formation of PBDD/F from PBDE in electronic waste in recycling processes and under simulated extruding conditions (2014) Chemosphere, 116, pp. 34-39.


Saurat, J.-H., Kaya, G., Saxer-Sekulic, N., Pardo, B., Becker, M., Fontao, L., Mottu, F., Carraux, P., Pham, X.-C., Barde, C., Fontao, F., Zennegg, M., Schmid, P., Schaad, O., Descombes, P., Sorg, O. The cutaneous lesions of dioxin exposure: Lessons from the poisoning of Victor Yushchenko (2012) Toxicological Sciences, 125 (1), art. no. kfr223, pp. 310-317.