Fully automated online solid phase extraction coupled directly to liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Quantification of sulfonamide antibiotics, neutral and acidic pesticides at low concentrations in surface waters

J Chromatogr A. 2005 Dec 2;1097(1-2):138-47. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2005.08.030. Epub 2005 Sep 8.


A fully automated online solid phase extraction-liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (SPE-LC-MS/MS) instrumental setup has been developed for the quantification of sulfonamide antibiotics and pesticides in natural water. The direct coupling of an online solid phase extraction cartridge (Oasis HLB) to LC-MS/MS was accomplished using column switching techniques. High sensitivity in the low ng/L range was achieved by large volume injections of 18 mL with a combination of a tri-directional auto-sampler and a dispenser system. This setup allowed high sample throughput with a minimum of investment costs. Special emphasis was placed on low cross contamination. The chosen approach is suitable for research as well as for monitoring applications. The flexible instrumental setup was successfully optimised for different important groups of bioactive chemicals resulting in three trace analytical methods for quantification of (i) sulfonamide antibiotics and their acetyl metabolites; (ii) neutral pesticides (triazines, phenylureas, amides, chloracetanilides) and (iii) acidic pesticides (phenoxyacetic acids and triketones). Absolute extraction recoveries from 85 to 112% were obtained for the different analytes. More than 500 samples could be analyzed with one extraction cartridge. The inter-day precision of the method was excellent indicated by relative standard deviations between 1 and 6%. High accuracy was achieved by the developed methods resulting in maximum deviation relative to the spiked amount of 8-15% for the different analytes. Detection limits for various environmental samples were between 0.5 and 5 ng/L. Matrix induced ion suppression was in general smaller than 25%. The performance of the online methods was demonstrated with measurements of concentration dynamics of sulfonamide antibiotics and pesticides concentrations in a little creek during rain fall events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis*
  • Automation
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / instrumentation
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods
  • Chromatography, Liquid / instrumentation
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Pesticides / analysis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sulfonamides / analysis*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Pesticides
  • Sulfonamides