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Techniques and Methods 5–B10

Determination of Human-Use Pharmaceuticals in Filtered Water by Direct Aqueous Injection–High-Performance Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry

Chapter 10 of
Section B, Methods of the National Water Quality Laboratory
Book 5, Laboratory Analysis

By Edward T. Furlong, Mary C. Noriega, Christopher J. Kanagy, Leslie K. Kanagy, Laura J. Coffey, and Mark R. Burkhardt

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.01 MB)Abstract

This report describes a method for the determination of 110 human-use pharmaceuticals using a 100-microliter aliquot of a filtered water sample directly injected into a high-performance liquid chromatograph coupled to a triple-quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer using an electrospray ionization source operated in the positive ion mode. The pharmaceuticals were separated by using a reversed-phase gradient of formic acid/ammonium formate-modified water and methanol. Multiple reaction monitoring of two fragmentations of the protonated molecular ion of each pharmaceutical to two unique product ions was used to identify each pharmaceutical qualitatively. The primary multiple reaction monitoring precursor-product ion transition was quantified for each pharmaceutical relative to the primary multiple reaction monitoring precursor-product transition of one of 19 isotope-dilution standard pharmaceuticals or the pesticide atrazine, using an exact stable isotope analogue where possible. Each isotope-dilution standard was selected, when possible, for its chemical similarity to the unlabeled pharmaceutical of interest, and added to the sample after filtration but prior to analysis.

Method performance for each pharmaceutical was determined for reagent water, groundwater, treated drinking water, surface water, treated wastewater effluent, and wastewater influent sample matrixes that this method will likely be applied to. Each matrix was evaluated in order of increasing complexity to demonstrate (1) the sensitivity of the method in different water matrixes and (2) the effect of sample matrix, particularly matrix enhancement or suppression of the precursor ion signal, on the quantitative determination of pharmaceutical concentrations. Recovery of water samples spiked (fortified) with the suite of pharmaceuticals determined by this method typically was greater than 90 percent in reagent water, groundwater, drinking water, and surface water. Correction for ambient environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals hampered the determination of absolute recoveries and method sensitivity of some compounds in some water types, particularly for wastewater effluent and influent samples.

The method detection limit of each pharmaceutical was determined from analysis of pharmaceuticals fortified at multiple concentrations in reagent water. The calibration range for each compound typically spanned three orders of magnitude of concentration. Absolute sensitivity for some compounds, using isotope-dilution quantitation, ranged from 0.45 to 94.1 nanograms per liter, primarily as a result of the inherent ionization efficiency of each pharmaceutical in the electrospray ionization process.

Holding-time studies indicate that acceptable recoveries of pharmaceuticals can be obtained from filtered water samples held at 4 °C for as long as 9 days after sample collection. Freezing samples to provide for storage for longer periods currently (2014) is under evaluation by the National Water Quality Laboratory.

First posted June 13, 2014

For additional information:
National Water Quality Laboratory
US. Geological Survey
P.O. Box 25585
Denver Federal Center
Lakewood, CO 80225–0585

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Suggested citation:

Furlong, E.T., Noriega, M.C., Kanagy, C.J., Kanagy, L.K., Coffey, L.J., and Burkhardt, M.R., 2014, Determination of human-use pharmaceuticals in filtered water by direct aqueous injection—high-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 5, chap. B10, 49 p.,

ISSN 2328-7055 (online)




Analytical Method

Results and Discussion of Method Validation

Reporting Limits

Sample Holding-Time Study

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1

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