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Quantification of Steroid Sex Hormones Using Solid-Phase Extraction Followed by Liquid Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry

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In this study, the occurrence of trace amounts of natural and synthetic steroid estrogens in the aquatic environment was studied using liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray mass spectrometry, following solid-phase extraction (SPE). The SPE was performed with C18 and NH2 cartridges. The first objective was to develop a reliable method for analyzing steroid estrogens (resulting from human and animal excretions) in different matrices. The method developed was then applied to quantify the occurrence of natural and synthetic hormones (estrone [E1], 17β-estradiol [βE2], 17α-estradiol [αE2], estriol [E3], and 17α-ethinylestradiol [EE2]) in environmental samples in surface water and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) influent and effluent. In the WWTP influents, βE2, αE2, and E3 were identified as ranging up to 72.6 ng/L in WWTP influent and to 16 ng/L in WWTP effluent. Analysis of surface water sampled upstream from the WWTP revealed the presence of all five estrogens, at levels up to 19.8 ng/L. These concentrations of estrogens pose an issue for large and small communities, because they are higher than the recommended guidelines for estrogen-active compounds and because a lot of communities use surface water as drinking-water sources.

Keywords: endocrine disruptors; estrogens; liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry; surface water; wastewater treatment plant; water analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2007

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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