Analysis of gadolinium-based contrast agents in tap water with a new hydrophilic interaction chromatography (ZIC-cHILIC) hyphenated with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.
The fate of Gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during sewage treatment was investigated. The total concentration of Gd in influent and effluent 2 and 24 h composite samples was determined by means of isotope dilution analysis. The balancing of Gd input and output of a sewage plant over seven days indicated that approximately 10% of the Gd is removed during treatment. Batch experiments simulating the aeration tank of a sewage treatment plant confirmed the Gd complex removal during activated sludge treatment. For speciation analysis of the Gd complexes in wastewater samples, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was hyphenated to inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometry (ICP-SFMS). Separation of the five predominantly used contrast agents was carried out on a new hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography stationary phase in less than 15 min. A limit of detection (LOD) of 0.13 μg/L and a limit of quantification of 0.43 μg/L could be achieved for the Gd chelates without having to apply enrichment techniques. Speciation analysis of the 24 h composite samples revealed that 80% of the Gd complexes are present as Gd-BT-DO3A in the sampled treatment plant. The day-of-week dependent variation of the complex load followed the variation of the total Gd load, indicating a similar behavior. The analysis of sewage sludge did not prove the presence of anthropogenic Gd. However, in the effluent of the chamber filter press, which was used for sludge dewatering, two of the contrast agents and three other unknown Gd species were observed. This indicates that species transformation took place during anaerobic sludge treatment.