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Techniques and Methods 5-C2

Methods of Analysis—Determination of Pyrethroid Insecticides in Water and Sediment Using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry

By Michelle L. Hladik, Kelly L. Smalling, and Kathryn M. Kuivila


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A method for the determination of 14 pyrethroid insecticides in environmental water and sediment samples is described. The method was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in response to increasing concern over the effects of pyrethroids on aquatic organisms. The pyrethroids included in this method are ones that are applied to many agricultural and urban areas.

Filtered water samples are extracted for pyrethroids using solid-phase extraction (SPE) with no additional cleanup steps. Sediment and soil samples are extracted using a microwave-assisted extraction system, and the pyrethroids of interest are separated from co-extracted matrix interferences by passing the extracts through stacked graphitized carbon and alumina SPE cartridges, along with the use of high-performance liquid chromatography and gel-permeation chromatography (HPLC/GPC). Quantification of the pyrethroids from the extracted water and sediment samples is done using gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (GC/MS/MS).

Recoveries in test water samples fortified at 10 ng/L ranged from 83 to 107 percent, and recoveries in test sediment samples fortified at 10 µg/kg ranged from 82 to 101 percent; relative standard deviations ranged from 5 to 9 percent in the water samples and 3 to 9 percent in the sediment samples. Method detection limits (MDLs), calculated using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency procedures (40 CFR 136, Appendix B), in water ranged from 2.0 to 6.0 ng/L using GC/MS and 0.5 to 1.0 ng/L using GC/MS/MS. For sediment, the MDLs ranged from 1.0 to 2.6 µg/kg dry weight using GC/MS and 0.2 to 0.5 µg/kg dry weight using GC/MS/MS. The matrix-spike recoveries for each compound, when averaged for 12 environmental water samples, ranged from 84 to 96 percent, and when averaged for 27 environmental sediment samples, ranged from 88 to 100 percent.

For additional information contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street Placer Hall
Sacramento, California 95819

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Suggested citation:

Hladik, M.L., Smalling, K.L., and Kuivila, K.M., 2009, Methods of analysis—Determination of pyrethroid insecticides in water and sediment using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 5–C2, 18 p.




Purpose and Scope

Analytical Method


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