Dirty water in Bogota

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  • Published: Aug 24, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Detectors / HPLC / Ion Chromatography / Laboratory Informatics / Proteomics & Genomics / Electrophoresis / Gas Chromatography / Sample Preparation / Raman / Infrared Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / MRI Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Atomic / Proteomics / NMR Knowledge Base / X-ray Spectrometry / Base Peak

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Extensive screening of a wide range of prescription drugs and illegal drugs in water from Bogota, Colombia, has revealed the extent of contamination, even after wastewater treatment.

Water screening programs in European countries and in Brazil have been carried out to assess the extent of contamination of different types of water by pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs and their metabolites. Now, details of a massive study that was conducted in Bogota have been released in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

The research team established a database of 1057 emerging contaminants that included pharmaceuticals, X-ray agents, UV filters, preservatives, sweeteners, illicit drugs and metabolites with which to compare the data they acquired from real water samples.

Water from rivers, irrigation areas and the influent and effluent of wastewater treatment plants was collected and analysed by ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography linked to high-resolution mass spectrometry and the full spectrum accurate mass date were compared with the database to see which were present.

A wide range of compounds were detected. The most frequent were drugs and antibiotics such as paracetamol, carbamazepine, diclofenac, ibuprofen, losartan and clarithromycin. Unsurprisingly, cocaine and its main metabolite benzoylecgonine were also found. Other expected compounds that were detected were caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

It was clear that wastewater treatment was not always effective, a fact that has been established in other studies on emerging contaminants. More needs to be done to the regulatory authorities worldwide to identify substances that avoid complete removal and find their way into water courses where they can cause damage to wildlife.

This is the first major study that has targeted Colombian water for emerging contaminants and it will allow a more targeted approach to be developed, probably based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. It would be simple to add other compounds to the target group as they are identified in the environment.

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