Studies have been carried out to determine the potential for the detection of different microbial species (Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa), alone and in the presence of low concentrations of different heavy metals (As, Cd, Pb and Zn) in bottled, reverse osmosis (RO) and tap water, using an electronic nose. Studies show that it is possible to discriminate control water samples from water contaminated with 0.5 ppm of a mixture of metals. The presence of heavy metals may modify the activity of microorganisms and thus the volatile production patterns. Bacterial species at 102–104 colony forming units (CFUs) ml−1 could be detected after 24 h of incubation. Work is in progress to identify the limits of detection for a range of other microorganisms, including, fungi and cyanobacteria, and chlorinated phenols using electronic nose technology
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