Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Gdańsk University of Technology
Monitoring of pharmaceutical residue in the aquatic environment
Abstract: Pharmaceuticals are a crucial element of modern medicine and confer significant benefits to society. Their residues have been increasingly measured in the environment over the past decade, mostly in surface waters, but also in groundwater, soil, manure, biota, and even in drinking water. Since pharmaceuticals are specifically designed to cause pharmacological effects in living organisms, it is not surprising that a growing body of literature has shown that pharmaceuticals are having adverse effects on wildlife and ecosystem health. It is challenging to assess the potential long-term health risks of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, especially given that drinking water is currently not systematically monitored for pharmaceutical residues.
Analysis of pharmaceutical residue in environmental samples is an extremely difficult task. Since sample matrices in most cases are complex, traditionally ultra trace analytical methods were specifically developed for a certain type of sample and group of substances. This traditional targeted approach gives good sensitivity and reliable identification and quantification of the target compounds, and has been used with success for several decades. However, this approach – even though performed at ultra-trace level - has a significant drawback as it always will miss compounds which were not selected at the start of the analyses, that means normally all unknowns or other non-targeted substances even in high concentrations or with severe toxic potential. Moreover, pharmaceuticals, as many other compounds, may undergo transformation processes giving as a result some new pollutants. Identification of pharmaceuticals and transformation products of emerging pollutants is challenging also due to the vast number of compounds.
To fill this knowledge gap non-target screening methods are very important tools for environmental chemistry. Moreover, non-target screening, which is a useful tool for identification of unknown or new emerging environmental pollutants, can be applied in case. It was possible to identify huge number of new or earlier unrecognized contaminants in different environmental samples.
Example of the practical approach for the targeted and non-targeted determination of pharmaceuticals and their transformation products in natural waters collected nearby TriCity will be given. Discussion on mass spectrometric techniques such as LC-MS/MS and LC-QTOF will be performed together with discussion on seasonal changes of pharmaceuticals level in the environmental waters.

Keywords: pharmaceuticals, monitoring, residue in the aquatic environment