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.
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