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Sci Total Environ. 2012 Dec 1;440:280-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.06.027. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Occurrence and distribution of multi-class pharmaceuticals and their active metabolites and transformation products in the Ebro river basin (NE Spain).

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Department of Environmental Chemistry, IDAEA-CSIC, C/Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.


The present work reports the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites and transformation products (TPs) in the Ebro river basin (NE Spain). Twenty-four samples of water collected along the basin were analysed using a fully automated method based on on-line turbulent chromatography-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (TFC-LC-MS/MS). In total, 17 metabolites, 7 of them with remaining pharmacologic activity, and 2 transformation products, along with 58 parent pharmaceuticals are analysed. Metabolites and TPs were found at concentrations of the same order of magnitude as their corresponding parent pharmaceuticals, with the exception of 10,11-epoxi-carbamazepine which was found at approximately 10 times higher concentration than its corresponding parent pharmaceutical carbamazepine. In general, levels of all target compounds were below 100 ng L(-1), with the exception of 14 compounds; among them the aforementioned 10,11-epoxicarbamazepine with a maximum concentration of more than 1600 ng L(-1). The analgesic propyphenazone, the psychiatric drug carbamazepine, the antibiotics clarithromycin and sulfadiazine, the cardiovascular drug propranolol, the antineoplastic tamoxifen and 1 pharmacologically active metabolite salicylic acid were found to be ubiquitous (detected in all samples). Smaller tributaries generally show higher concentrations than the main river Ebro, due to lower dilution of WWTP effluents discharged.

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