Ultra high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry for rapid analysis of trace organic contaminants in water

Tarun Anumol, Sylvain Merel, Bradley O. Clarke, Shane A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Background: The widespread utilization of organic compounds in modern society and their dispersion through wastewater have resulted in extensive contamination of source and drinking waters. The vast majority of these compounds are not regulated in wastewater outfalls or in drinking water while trace amounts of certain compounds can impact aquatic wildlife. Hence it is prudent to monitor these contaminants in water sources until sufficient toxicological data relevant to humans becomes available. A method was developed for the analysis of 36 trace organic contaminants (TOrCs) including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, steroid hormones (androgens, progestins, and glucocorticoids), personal care products and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) using a single solid phase extraction (SPE) technique with ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS). The method was applied to a variety of water matrices to demonstrate method performance and reliability.Results: UHPLC-MS/MS in both positive and negative electrospray ionization (ESI) modes was employed to achieve optimum sensitivity while reducing sample analysis time (<20 min) compared with previously published methods. The detection limits for most compounds was lower than 1.0 picogram on the column while reporting limits in water ranged from 0.1 to 15 ng/L based on the extraction of a 1 L sample and concentration to 1 mL. Recoveries in ultrapure water for most compounds were between 90-110%, while recoveries in surface water and wastewater were in the range of 39-121% and 38-141% respectively. The analytical method was successfully applied to analyze samples across several different water matrices including wastewater, groundwater, surface water and drinking water at different stages of the treatment. Among several compounds detected in wastewater, sucralose and TCPP showed the highest concentrations.Conclusion: The proposed method is sensitive, rapid and robust; hence it can be used to analyze a large variety of trace organic compounds in different water matrixes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104
JournalChemistry Central Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 18 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Glucocorticoid
  • PFC
  • Personal-care product
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Solid-phase extraction
  • Tandem mass spectrometry
  • Trace organic contaminant
  • Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Ultra high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry for rapid analysis of trace organic contaminants in water'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this