The University of Colorado’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering has announced the opening of the Center for Environmental Mass Spectrometry (CEMS), a laboratory focusing on the detection of pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic contaminants in water and evaluating the effectiveness of methods for removing these compounds. Agilent Technologies Inc. is providing the core liquid chromatograph/mass spectrometer (LC/MS) instrumentation for the lab.
The topic of pharmaceuticals in drinking water recently gained increased visibility when an Associated Press survey revealed that an assortment of drugs including antidepressants, antibiotics and birth control prescriptions were detected in the municipal drinking water of 24 major metropolitan areas serving 41 million Americans.
CEMS was established at the University of Colorado by Imma Ferrer, research Ph.D.; Karl Linden, Ph.D.; and E. Michael Thurman, research Ph.D. Thurman, a 30-year veteran of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in water testing, also spent five years in Spain, where Ferrer and he worked at the first LC/MS accurate mass facility in Spain for the analysis of pesticides in food.
Ferrer is the chief analyst of CEMS and is responsible for the highest quality measurements and operation of the laboratory. Professor Linden directs research on the treatment of pharmaceuticals in water and plays a key role in laboratory development and design. Furthermore, CEMS has a collaborative agreement with Larry Barber, Ph.D., of the USGS for the sampling and analysis of pharmaceuticals in the environment.
To measure trace amounts of compounds and detect unknowns in complex water samples, CEMS requires an LC/MS system with very high mass accuracy, mass resolution, sensitivity and speed. Through their previous work in food testing with Agilent applications scientist Jerry Zweigenbaum, Ph.D., Ferrer and Thurman became aware of the Agilent 6220 Accurate Mass Time-of-Flight LC/MS system, and Agilent agreed to loan a complete system to the lab at no charge. The system’s list price is approximately $270,000.
“The mass accuracy of the Agilent TOF rivals much more expensive FTMS and orbital trapping instruments,” said Ferrer, chief analyst of CEMS. Ferrer and Thurman showed the power of accurate mass in Spain by measuring the mass of an electron by LC/TOF-MS on several pharmaceuticals, publishing this paper in 2005 in Analytical Chemistry.
The new Agilent LC/MS system with resolving power of approximately 20,000 was introduced last November, and it contains a number of design features that are well-suited for environmental analysis where scientists must detect very small quantities of chemicals in complex mixtures.