Rapid communications in mass spectrometry : RCM

Analysis of steroid estrogens in water using liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry with chemical derivatizations.

PMID 17526068


Even in trace amounts, estrogens such as 17beta-estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), estriol (E3), and 17alpha-ethinyl estradiol (EE2) may have adverse effects on humans and the aquatic ecosystem. Therefore, it is essential to be able to measure trace amounts of steroid estrogens in water. To date, most instruments are not sensitive enough to detect these chemicals in small samples of water. Sensitivity, however, may be improved by using appropriate derivatization reagents to modify the structures of these estrogens so that their ionization efficiency is increased, making them more detectable by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). This study uses dansyl chloride, 2-fluoro-1-methylpyridinium p-toluenesulfonate (FMPTS), and pentafluorobenzyl bromide (PFBBr) as derivatization reagents to react with the phenolic estrogens to make them more detectable in water. We also test how environmental matrices (wastewater effluent, river water, and drinking water) influence the detectability of these estrogens. Both qualitative and semi-quantitative comparisons of these derivatization methods were made. We found that dansyl chloride derivatives created signal intensities one or two orders of magnitude greater than those normally found in underivatized estrogen standards. The signals derived by FMPTS were analyte-dependent, and the products derived from E1, E2, and EE2 produced 2.19 to 12.1 times the signal intensity of underivatized E1, E2, and EE2. The product derived from E3 produced weaker signals than that produced by underivatized E3. The PFBBr derivatives produced signals that were as much as 5.8 times those found in the underivatized estrogens. When these derivatization methods were applied to river water, drinking water and effluents from a sewage treatment plant (STP), the different matrices were found to significantly suppress the signals if we used electrospray ionization, though this influence became less significant if we used atmospheric pressure chemical ionization. This study suggests that PFBBr derivatization can best be used for the detection of these estrogens in complex environmental matrices such as river water and STP effluents and that the dansyl chloride derivatization is best used for clean samples such as drinking water.