Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 23, pp 19282–19292 | Cite as

Occurrence, distribution, and risk assessment of antibiotics in the Songhua River in China

  • Weihua Wang
  • He Wang
  • Wanfeng Zhang
  • Hong LiangEmail author
  • Dawen GaoEmail author
Research Article


The occurrence, distribution, and risk assessment of antibiotics in freshwater systems are receiving global attention, because of their impact on the environment and human health. However, few studies have focused on this topic in Northeast China and its Songhua River, the third-largest river in China. This study investigated the occurrence and distribution of 12 antibiotics, including three cephalosporins (cefazolin, cefmetazole, cefotaxime), three macrolides (azithromycin, clarithromycin, roxithromycin), three fluoroquinolones (ofloxacin, norfloxacin, flumequine), and three sulfonamides (sulfadiazine, sulfapyridine, sulfamethoxazole) in the mainstream and tributaries of the Songhua River. A total of 152 surface water samples were collected in January, May, July, and October 2016. These samples were analyzed using solid-phase extraction (SPE) and ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS). The results indicated the wide use of all 12 antibiotics in the mainstream of the Songhua River. Sulfamethoxazole and cefazolin were the dominant antibiotics, with maximum concentrations of 73.1 and 65.4 ng L−1, respectively. Other antibiotics were present at mean concentrations below 15 ng L−1, except cefmetazole, present at a mean concentration of 35.6 ng L−1. The spatial distribution of antibiotics showed that unbalanced regional development may lead to the distribution pattern of the antibiotics in the tributaries and the mainstream. Thus study also assessed the seasonal variation of antibiotics in urban surface water; cephalosporin, sulfonamide, fluoroquinolone, and macrolide concentrations were significantly higher during the icebound season than during non-icebound season. This may be due to the low temperature and water flow of the river in winter. Risk assessment showed that azithromycin, clarithromycin, roxithromycin, flumequine, and sulfamethoxazole posed a low or median risk to the aquatic organisms in the mainstream. The potential risks created by antibiotics to the aquatic environment should not be neglected in the Songhua River. The potential risks created by antibiotics to the aquatic environment should not be neglected in the Songhua River.


Antibiotics Surface water Risk assessment Icebound season 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31470543).

Supplementary material

11356_2017_9471_MOESM1_ESM.doc (541 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 541 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Ecological ResearchNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina
  2. 2.Harbin Environmental Monitoring CenterHarbinChina
  3. 3.School of ForestryNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina

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