Determination of azoles in sewage sludge from Spanish wastewater treatment plants by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry



A simple and rapid analytical method for the determination of 16 azoles in sewage sludge has been developed and validated. The method was based on ultrasound-assisted extraction followed by dispersive solid-phase extraction cleanup and liquid chromatography-electrospray tandem mass spectrometric detection. The azoles were selected by their intensive usage as biocides (tebuconazole, propiconazole, cyproconazole and thiabendazole), antimycotic pharmaceuticals (ketoconazole, econazole, fluconazole and clotrimazole) or fungicides in agriculture (difenoconazole, flusilazole, hexaconazole, prochloraz, bromuconazole, epoxiconazole and triticonazole). The recoveries of these compounds through the method were between 71.9 and 115.8%, with relative standard deviations lower than 20%. Detection limits were in the range of 0.5–5.0 ng/g. The developed method was applied to the analysis of azoles in sewage sludge samples collected from 19 Spanish wastewater treatment plants. Although azoles used as biocides or agriculture fungicides were present in a few sludge samples, the pharmaceuticals ketoconazole, econazole and clotrimazole were present in all of the analyzed sludge samples, being ketoconazole the one found at the highest level, representing the 68.6% of the total azole content found in the 19 sludge samples studied.