Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampling and Liquid Chromatography–Electrospray/Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometry for Assessing Selected Prescription and Illicit Drugs in Treated Sewage Effluents
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The purpose of the research presented in this paper was twofold: (1) to demonstrate the coupling of two state-of-the-art techniques: a time-weighted polar organic chemical integrative sampler (POCIS) and microliquid chromatography–electrospray/ion-trap mass spectrometry and (2) to assess the ability of these methodologies to detect six drugs (azithromycin, fluoxetine, omeprazole, levothyroxine, methamphetamine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA]) in a real-world environment, e.g., waste water effluent. In the effluent from three wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), azithromycin was detected at concentrations ranging from 15 to 66 ng/L, which is equivalent to a total annual release of 1 to 4 kg into receiving waters. Detected and confirmed in the effluent from two WWTPs were two illicit drugs, methamphetamine and MDMA, at 2 and 0.5 ng/L, respectively. Although the ecotoxicologic significance of drugs in environmental matrices, particularly water, has not been closely examined, it can only be surmised that these substances have the potential to adversely affect biota that are continuously exposed to them even at very low levels. The potential for chronic effects on human health is also unknown but of increasing concern because of the multiuse character of water, particularly in densely populated, arid areas.
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