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The amount and distribution of six pharmaceutical compounds belonging to distinct therapeutic classes were investigated along the navigation channel of the Douro River estuary. Distinct spatial and temporal trends were considered and a total of 87 water samples were pre-concentrated by solid-phase extraction (SPE) and analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) with an ion trap (IT) analyzer and electrospray ionization (ESI). The maximum concentrations found were 178ng/L for carbamazepine, 3.65ng/L for diazepam, 70.3ng/L for fenofibric acid, 3.18ng/L for propranolol, 15.7ng/L for trimethoprim and 53.3ng/L for sulfamethoxazole. Carbamazepine was the most ubiquitous compound with 100% positive detection frequency followed by propranolol (38%), trimethoprim (34%) and sulfamethoxazole (33%). The pharmaceutical compounds were quantified at higher levels in the lower stretch of the estuary, especially near the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The data proves that pollution of the Douro River estuary by pharmaceuticals is consistent and is occurring in a fairly constant manner in time, covering a wide area and displaying hot-spots. Individually, the concentration levels are not likely to cause acute effects, based on reference experimental data. However, the fact that complex mixtures exist gives cause for concern as regards potentially relevant toxicological risks. The study points out the need for continuous monitoring of contamination levels not only in the Douro River estuary but also in other major estuaries. Finally, the scenario supports the need for experimental studies on toxicological impacts on aquatic organisms at environmentally relevant concentrations.
Health Sciences Research Center of the Superior Institute Health Sciences North, Gandra, Paredes, Portugal; Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar (ICBAS), University of Porto, Portugal; Medicinal Chemistry Centre (CEQUIMED-UP), University of Porto
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Science of the total environment
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