LC-MS/MS determination of potential endocrine disruptors of cortico signalling in rivers and wastewaters
A targeted analytical method was established to determine a large number of chemicals known to interfere with the gluco- and mineralocorticoid signalling pathway. The analytes comprise 30 glucocorticoids and 9 mineralocorticoids. Ten out of these corticosteroids were primary metabolites. Additionally, 14 nonsteroids were included. These analytes represent a broader range of possible adverse modes of action than previously reported. For the simultaneous determination of these structurally diverse compounds, a single-step multimode solid-phase extraction and pre-concentration was applied. Extracts were separated by a short linear HPLC gradient (20 min) on a core shell RP column (2.7 mu m particle size) and compounds identified and quantified by LC-MS/MS. The method provided excellent retention time reproducibility and detection limits in the low nanograms per litre range. Untreated hospital wastewater, wastewater treatment plant influent, treated effluent and river waters were analysed to demonstrate the applicability of the method. The results show that not all compounds were sufficiently eliminated by the wastewater treatment, resulting in the presence of several steroids (similar to 20 ng/L) and nonsteroids in the final effluent, some of them at high concentrations up to 200 ng/L. Most of the detected mono-hydroxylated steroidal transformation products were found at significantly higher concentrations than their parent compounds. We therefore recommend to include these potentially bioactive metabolites in environmental toxicity assessment.