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USGS Scientists Develop New Method to Measure Pharmaceuticals in Water

U.S. Geological Survey scientist examining results of chromatographic analysis.
U.S. Geological Survey scientist examining results of chromatographic analysis.
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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have developed a new laboratory method to measure trace levels of 22 human-health pharmaceuticals in surface and ground water. The new method is a part of the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program’s effort to document the sources, occurrence, fate, transport, and ecological-health effects of selected human and animal-health pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants in the environment. The powerful capabilities provided by this new method, developed as an integral component of the Emerging Contaminants in the Environment Investigation, enable scientists to delve deeper into the detailed scientific questions regarding the sources, fate, and effects of emerging contaminants in our environment. The answers to these questions are being sought more each day by public-health and other decision makers in private as well as public sectors of our society as emerging contaminant issues continue to arise.

The new method uses an analytical procedure that combines solid-phase extraction with high-performance liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (HPLC–ESI-MS). The average detection limit for this method is 0.022 micrograms per liter (µg/L), sufficient for expected ambient concentrations in the environment. The method performs well for the majority of the 22 pharmaceuticals quantified, with recoveries greater than 60 percent for 12 pharmaceuticals.

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Reference

Recent Publications on Methods for Emerging Contaminants

  • Ferrer, I., Schroeder, H.F., and Furlong, E.T., 2003, LC/MS analyses of cationic surfactants--Methods and applications, in Knepper, T.P., Barcelo, D., and de Voogt, P., eds., Analysis and fate of surfactants in the aquatic environment: Amsterdam, Elsevier, Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry Series, v. XL, p. 353-383.
  • Ferrer, I., Furlong, E.T., and Thurman, E.M., 2003, Identification of homologue unknowns in wastewater by ion trap MSn, in Ferrer, I., and Thurman, E.M., eds., Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry MS/MS and Time-of-Flight MS-- Analysis of Emerging Contaminants (ACS Symposium Series 850, Orlando meeting): American Chemical Society , p. 376-393.
  • Ferrer, I., and Thurman, E.M., 2003, Analysis of emerging contaminants, in Ferrer, I., and Thurman, E.M., eds., Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry, MS/MS and Time of Flight MS--Analysis of Emerging Contaminants (ACS Symposium Series 850, Orlando meeting): American Chemical Society , p. 2-13.
  • Furlong, E.T., Ferrer, I., Gates, P.M., Cahill, J.D., and Thurman, E.M., 2003, Identification of labile polar organic contaminants by atmospheric-pressure ionization tandem mass spectrometry, in Ferrer, I., and Thurman, E.M., ed., Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry MS/MS and Time of Flight MS--Analysis of Emerging Contaminants (ACS Symposium Series 850, Orlando meeting): American Chemical Society , p. 175-187.

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