A highly reproducible and specific method for the analysis of the quaternary ammonium compound, benzalkonium chloride, in effluents from European hospitals is presented. Benzalkonium chloride was extracted with end-capped RP-18 solid-phase cartridges and was selectively eluted. The resulting solution was analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). After elution from the analytical column of the HPLC system, 9,10-dimethoxyanthracene-2-sulfonate was added continuously as a fluorescence marker, forming a hydrophobic ion-pair with benzalkonium chloride. The ion-pair was analyzed by fluorescence detection. The method was applied to highly complex effluent samples from different sized European hospitals. The measured concentrations were between 0.05 and 6.03 mg/l. The amounts emitted per bed and year were 4.5-362 g and did not correlate with the size of the hospital. The total amounts were 2.6-909 kg/year.