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A multicomponent snapshot of pharmaceuticals and pesticides in the river Meuse basin


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The river Meuse serves as a drinking-water source for more than 6 million people in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. Pharmaceuticals and pesticides, both designed to be biologically active, are important classes of contaminants present in this river. The variation in the presence of pharmaceuticals in time and space in the Dutch part of the Meuse was studied using a multicomponent analytical method for pharmaceuticals combined with univariate and multivariate statistical analyses of the results. Trends and variation in time in the presence of pharmaceuticals were investigated in a dead-end side stream of the Meuse that serves as an intake point for the production of drinking water, and 93% of the selected compounds were detected. Highest concentrations were found for the antidiabetic metformin. Furthermore, a spatial snapshot of the presence of pharmaceuticals and pesticides was made along the river Meuse. Principal component analysis was successfully applied to reveal that wastewater-treatment plant effluent and water composition at the Belgian border were the main factors determining which compounds are found at different locations. The Dutch part of the river basin appeared responsible for approximately one-half of the loads of pharmaceuticals and pesticides discharged by the Meuse into the North Sea. The present study showed that multicomponent monitoring in combination with principal component analysis is a powerful tool to provide insight into contamination patterns in surface waters. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2449–2459. © 2013 SETAC