Development and application of analytical methods for water analysis

Environmental analysis is an important field of application for LC/MS-based analytical techniques. Illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals are continuously excreted or discarded into the sewer system. As a consequence of incomplete elimination by wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs), they end up either as unaltered parent compounds or transformation products in environmental waters. Wastewaters potentially contain tens of thousands of compounds that are in daily use in households and industry, and the number of detectable micropollutants is steadily increasing, which in fact is related to the enormous improvements in detection sensitivity of analytical techniques. By employing state-of-the-art instrumentation, limits of detection in the pg/l to low ng/L range can be reached.

Analysing communal wastewaters for drugs and their metabolic products is an exciting approach for estimating their consumption in the community. The principles of wastewater-based drug epidemiology are explained in the following movie. 


We are continuously monitoring the local wastewater for drugs and their metabolic products and report this information to the European monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.


The following publications provide examples for the successful application of our analytical expertise to scientific studies:

  1. Oberacher, H., Grabher, A.-L. Pilotstudie zum abwasserbasierten Drogenmonitoring in Vorarlberg Vorarlberger Suchtbericht 2018, 41-47.
  2. van Nuijs, A.*, Lai, F. Y., Been, F., Andres-Costa, M. J., Barron, L., Baz-Lomba, J. A., Berset, J.-D., Benaglia, L., Bijlsma, L., Burgard, D. Castiglioni, S., Christophoridis, C., Covaci, A., de Voogt, P., Emke, E., Fatta-Kassinos, D.,  Fick, J., Hernandez, F., Gerber, C., González-Mariño, I., Grabic, R., Gunnar, T., Kannan, K., Karolak, S., Kasprzyk-Hordern, B., Kokot, Z., Krizman-Matasic, I., Li, A., Li, X., Löve, A. S. C., Lopez de Alda, M., Meyer, M. R., Oberacher, H., O’Brien, J., Quintana, J. B., Reid, M., Schneider, S., Sadler Simoes, S., Thomaidis N. S., Thomas, K., Yargeau, V., Ort, C. Multi-year Interlaboratory Exercises for the Analysis of Illicit Drugs and Metabolites in Wastewater: Development of a Quality Control System. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 103 (2018), 34-43.
  3. Steger, J., Arnhard, K., Haslacher, S., Geiger, K., Singer, K., Schlapp, M. Pitterl, F., Oberacher, H.* Successful Adaption of a Forensic Toxicological Screening Workflow Employing Non-targeted Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry to Water Analysis. Electrophoresis, 37 (2016), 1085-1094.
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