Monitoring a large number of pesticides and transformation products in water samples from Spain and Italy

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Assessing the presence of pesticides in environmental waters is particularly challenging because of the huge number of substances used which may end up in the environment. Furthermore, the occurrence of pesticide transformation products (TPs) and/or metabolites makes this task even harder. Most studies dealing with the determination of pesticides in water include only a small number of analytes and in many cases no TPs. The present study applied a screening method for the determination of a large number of pesticides and TPs in wastewater (WW) and surface water (SW) from Spain and Italy. Liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) was used to screen a database of 450 pesticides and TPs. Detection and identification were based on specific criteria, i.e. mass accuracy, fragmentation, and comparison of retention times when reference standards were available, or a retention time prediction model when standards were not available. Seventeen pesticides and TPs from different classes (fungicides, herbicides and insecticides) were found in WW in Italy and Spain, and twelve in SW. Generally, in both countries more compounds were detected in effluent WW than in influent WW, and in SW than WW. This might be due to the analytical sensitivity in the different matrices, but also to the presence of multiple sources of pollution. HRMS proved a good screening tool to determine a large number of substances in water and identify some priority compounds for further quantitative analysis.

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