Extensive use of neonicotinoid insecticides has raised great concerns about their ecological risk. A reliable method to measure trace neonicotinoids in complicated aquatic environment is a premise for assessing their aquatic risk. To effectively remove matrix interfering substances from field water samples before instrumental analysis with HPLC/MS/MS, a multi-sorbent solid phase extraction method was developed using Box-Behnken design. The optimized method employed 200mg HLB/GCB (w/w, 8/2) as the sorbents and 6mL of 20% acetone in acetonitrile as the elution solution. The method was applied for measuring neonicotinoids in water at a wide range of concentrations (0.03-100μg/L) containing various amounts of matrix components. The recoveries of acetamiprid, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam from the spiked samples ranged from 76.3% to 107% while clothianidin and dinotefuran had relatively lower recoveries. The recoveries of neonicotinoids in water with various amounts of matrix interfering substances were comparable and the matrix removal rates were approximately 50%. The method was sensitive with method detection limits in the range of 1.8-6.8ng/L for all target neonicotinoids. Finally, the developed method was validated by measurement of trace neonicotinoids in natural water.
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