Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 411, Issue 8, pp 1601–1610 | Cite as

A simple, fast method for the analysis of 20 contaminants of emerging concern in river water using large-volume direct injection liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry

  • Josep Borrull
  • Agustí Colom
  • Josepa Fabregas
  • Eva PocurullEmail author
  • Francesc Borrull
Research Paper


A fast and sensitive method for the determination of a structurally and physico-chemically diverse group of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) based on large-volume direct injection liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry was developed. The method can be used to determine 20 CECs belonging to different pollutant families (pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and pesticides) in river water at nanogram per liter. A single analytical run is required and the positive and negative ionization modes can be used simultaneously. Because of the large-volume injections of samples and the high sensitivity of the current mass spectrometers, the method has no need of a preconcentration step. The analytes are quantitated with matrix-matched calibration curves. The estimated limits of detection were in the range 0.1–5 ng L−1. The accuracy of the method was in the range 86–114%, and the precision, expressed as a relative standard deviation (RSD %), was below 18% for all the analytes (n = 5, at 5, 10, and 25 ng L−1). The method was applied to water samples taken from different points along the lower course of the Ebro River, Spain. A total of 12 out of the 20 target analytes were detected, and the ones at higher concentrations were caffeine and the pharmaceuticals paracetamol and ibuprofen (184.8 ng L−1, 63.3 ng L−1, and 23.3 ng L−1, respectively).


Direct large-volume injection Multi-residue analysis Surface water Liquid chromatography Tandem mass spectrometry 



The authors also thank the support of Pla de Doctorats Industrials (DI) of the University and Research Secretary of the Economy and Knowledge Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Funding information

The research leading to these results has received funding from the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad; the Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI); and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (CTQ2017-84373-R).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josep Borrull
    • 1
    • 2
  • Agustí Colom
    • 1
  • Josepa Fabregas
    • 1
  • Eva Pocurull
    • 2
    Email author
  • Francesc Borrull
    • 2
  1. 1.Consorci d’Aigües de TarragonaL’AmpollaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Analytical Chemistry and Organic ChemistryUniversitat Rovira i VirgiliTarragonaSpain

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