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Cleanup strategies and advantages in the determination of several therapeutic classes of pharmaceuticals in wastewater samples by SPE-LC-MS/MS

Sousa, M. A., Gonçalves, C., Cunha, E., Hajšlová, J., Alpendurada, M. F.
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry 2011 v.399 no.2 pp. 807-822
acetaminophen, adsorbents, azithromycin, detection limit, diclofenac, drinking water, effluents, furosemide, gemfibrozil, hydrochlorothiazide, ibuprofen, ion exchange, ionization, ketoprofen, mass spectrometry, physicochemical properties, rivers, solid phase extraction, solvents, urban areas, wastewater, wastewater treatment, Portugal
This work describes the development and validation of an offline solid-phase extraction with simultaneous cleanup capability, followed by liquid chromatography-(electrospray ionisation)-ion trap mass spectrometry, enabling the concurrent determination of 23 pharmaceuticals of diverse chemical nature, among the most consumed in Portugal, in wastewater samples. Several cleanup strategies, exploiting the physical and chemical properties of the analytes vs. interferences, alongside with the use of internal standards, were assayed in order to minimise the influence of matrix components in the ionisation efficiency of target analytes. After testing all combinations of adsorbents (normal-phase, ion exchange and mixed composition) and elution solvents, the best results were achieved with the mixed-anion exchange Oasis MAX cartridges. They provided recovery rates generally higher than 60%. The precision of the method ranged from 2% to 18% and 4% to 19% (except for diclofenac (22%) and simvastatin (26%)) for intra- and inter-day analysis, respectively. Method detection limits varied between 1 and 20 ng L⁻¹, while method quantification limits were <85 ng L⁻¹ (both excluding ibuprofen). This analytical method was applied to gather preliminary results on influents and effluents of two wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located in the urban region of Porto (Portugal). Typically, paracetamol, hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide, naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac and bezafibrate were detected in concentrations ranging from 1 to 20 μg L⁻¹, while gemfibrozil, simvastatin, ketoprofen, azithromycin, bisoprolol, lorazepam and paroxetine were quantified in levels below 1 μg L⁻¹. These WWTPs were given particular attention since they discharge their effluents into the Douro river, where water is extracted for the production of drinking water. Some sampling spots in this river were also analysed.