Fast-Target Analysis and Hourly Variation of 60 Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater Using UPLC-High Resolution Mass Spectrometry

Youngmin Hong, Virender K. Sharma, Pen Chi Chiang, Hyunook Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A fast and sensitive monitoring method for trace pharmaceuticals in the environment is vital because many of these compounds are ubiquitous, persistent, and biologically active with recognized endocrine-disruption and pharmacological functions. A rapid and reliable ultra high-performance liquid chromatography combined with tandem mass spectrometry was developed in the present study to simultaneously identify, confirm, and quantify 60 target pharmaceuticals in wastewater samples. The method uses a sub-2 µm particle column for separating target compounds, which were subsequently quantified with the mass spectrometer. Using this high-throughput analysis method, a single injection could provide results within 5 min for the pharmaceuticals. All of the target compounds were analyzed by the multiple-reaction monitoring with 15-ms fast polarity switching. Both intraday and interday precision analyses indicate excellent coefficient of variability. To evaluate the performance of the method, a standard solution (100 and 1000 ng L−1) was spiked into complex wastewater samples. The tailing factor and peak width were also monitored and adjusted for optimizing peaks from the ultra high-performance liquid chromatograph. Of the target pharmaceuticals in wastewater of a sewage-treatment plant analyzed on an hourly basis, only 17 compounds were detected, and others were lower than the method detection limits. Acetaminophen, cimetidine, and iopromide were all detected at >1 μg L−1, and their concentration profiles were similar to that of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug detected in wastewater. Other noticeable pharmaceuticals were sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. Sources of pharmaceuticals in wastewater are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 20 Aug 2015


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