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J Chromatogr A. 2011 Apr 22;1218(16):2264-75. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2011.02.026. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Multi-class determination of around 50 pharmaceuticals, including 26 antibiotics, in environmental and wastewater samples by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

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Research Institute for Pesticides and Water, University Jaume I, Avda. Sos Baynat, E-12071 Castellón, Spain.


A multi-class method for the simultaneous quantification and confirmation of 47 pharmaceuticals in environmental and wastewater samples has been developed. The target list of analytes included analgesic and anti-inflammatories, cholesterol lowering statin drugs and lipid regulators, antidepressants, anti-ulcer agents, psychiatric drugs, ansiolitics, cardiovasculars and a high number (26) of antibiotics from different chemical groups. A common pre-concentration step based on solid-phase extraction with Oasis HLB cartridges was applied, followed by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) measurement. All compounds were satisfactorily determined in just one single injection, with a chromatographic run time of only 10 min. The process efficiency (combination of the matrix effect and the extraction process recovery) for the 47 selected compounds was evaluated in nine effluent wastewater (EWW) samples, and the use of different isotope-labelled internal standards (ILIS) was investigated to correct unsatisfactory values. Up to 12 ILIS were evaluated in EWW and surface water (SW). As expected, the ILIS provided satisfactory correction for their own analytes. However, the use of these ILIS for the rest of pharmaceuticals was problematic in some cases. Despite this fact, the correction with analogues ILIS was found useful for most of analytes in EWW, while was not strictly required in the SW tested. The method was successfully validated in SW and EWW at low concentration levels, as expected for pharmaceuticals in these matrices (0.025, 0.1 and 0.5 μg/L in SW; 0.1 and 0.5 μg/L in EWW). With only a few exceptions, the instrumental limits of detection varied between 0.1 and 8 pg. The limits of quantification were estimated from sample chromatograms at the lowest spiked levels tested and normally were below 20 ng/L for SW and below 50 ng/L for EWW. The developed method was applied to the analysis of around forty water samples (river waters and effluent wastewaters) from the Spanish Mediterranean region. Almost all the pharmaceuticals selected in this work were detected, mainly in effluent wastewater. In both matrices, analgesics and anti-inflammatories, lipid regulators and quinolone antibiotics were the most detected groups.

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