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Analysis and occurrence of seven artificial sweeteners in German waste water and surface water and in soil aquifer treatment (SAT)


A method for the simultaneous determination of seven commonly used artificial sweeteners in water is presented. The analytes were extracted by solid phase extraction using Bakerbond SDB 1 cartridges at pH 3 and analyzed by liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry in negative ionization mode. Ionization was enhanced by post-column addition of the alkaline modifier Tris(hydroxymethyl)amino methane. Except for aspartame and neohesperidin dihydrochalcone, recoveries were higher than 75% in potable water with comparable results for surface water. Matrix effects due to reduced extraction yields in undiluted waste water were negligible for aspartame and neotame but considerable for the other compounds. The widespread distribution of acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate, and sucralose in the aquatic environment could be proven. Concentrations in two influents of German sewage treatment plants (STPs) were up to 190 μg/L for cyclamate, about 40 μg/L for acesulfame and saccharin, and less than 1 μg/L for sucralose. Removal in the STPs was limited for acesulfame and sucralose and >94% for saccharin and cyclamate. The persistence of some artificial sweeteners during soil aquifer treatment was demonstrated and confirmed their environmental relevance. The use of sucralose and acesulfame as tracers for anthropogenic contamination is conceivable. In German surface waters, acesulfame was the predominant artificial sweetener with concentrations exceeding 2 μg/L. Other sweeteners were detected up to several hundred nanograms per liter in the order saccharin ≈ cyclamate > sucralose.

Some artificial sweeteners are excreted unchanged and in particular acesulfame is a perfect tracer for municipal waste water

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This study was financially supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research as part of the project 02WA0901. The assistance by our project partners in organizing and execution of the sampling campaigns in the SAT field is kindly acknowledged. We thank the municipalities of Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen and Karlsruhe for providing waste water samples for this study. Furthermore, we thank Doreen Richter for the careful corrections and fruitful discussions on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Frank T. Lange.

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Scheurer, M., Brauch, HJ. & Lange, F.T. Analysis and occurrence of seven artificial sweeteners in German waste water and surface water and in soil aquifer treatment (SAT). Anal Bioanal Chem 394, 1585–1594 (2009).

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  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame
  • Surface water
  • Waste water
  • Soil aquifer treatment