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Artificial sweeteners—a recently recognized class of emerging environmental contaminants: a review

Abstract

An overview is given of existing trace analytical methods for the determination of seven popular artificial sweeteners [acesulfame (ACE), aspartame, cyclamate (CYC), neotame, neohesperidine dihydrochalcone, saccharin (SAC), and sucralose (SUC)] from aqueous environmental samples. Liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization high-resolution mass spectrometry are the methods most widely applied, either directly or after solid-phase extraction. Limits of detection and limits of quantification down to the low nanogram per liter range can be achieved. ACE, CYC, SAC, and SUC were detected in wastewater treatment plants in high microgram per liter concentrations. Per capita loads of individual sweeteners can vary within a wide range depending on their use in different countries. Whereas CYC and SAC are usually degraded by more than 90 % during wastewater treatment, ACE and SUC pass through wastewater treatment plants mainly unchanged. This suggests their use as virtually perfect markers for the study of the impact of wastewater on source waters and drinking waters. In finished water of drinking water treatment plants using surface-water-influenced source water, ACE and SUC were detected in concentrations up to 7 and 2.4 μg/L, respectively. ACE was identified as a precursor of oxidation byproducts during ozonation, resulting in an aldehyde intermediate and acetic acid. Although the concentrations of ACE and SUC are among the highest measured for anthropogenic trace pollutants found in surface water, groundwater, and drinking water, the levels are at least three orders of magnitude lower than organoleptic threshold values. However, ecotoxicology studies are scarce and have focused on SUC. Thus, further research is needed both on identification of transformation products and on the ecotoxicological impact of artificial sweeteners and their transformation products.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Michael Fleig for providing the artificial sweetener data and discharges of the AWBR and ARW Rhine monitoring programs used for the preparation of Figs. 2 and 3 and Florian R. Storck for many fruitful discussions.

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Correspondence to Frank T. Lange.

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Published in the topical collection Analytical Challenges in Environmental and Geosciences with guest editor Christian Zwiener.

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Lange, F.T., Scheurer, M. & Brauch, HJ. Artificial sweeteners—a recently recognized class of emerging environmental contaminants: a review. Anal Bioanal Chem 403, 2503–2518 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-012-5892-z

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Keywords

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Acesulfame
  • Sucralose
  • Wastewater
  • Surface water
  • Groundwater
  • Drinking water
  • Ozonation