Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science



First Advisor

Marta Concheiro-Guisan

Second Reader

Shu-Yuan Cheng

Third Advisor

Daniel Torres Rangel


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) provides information about a population’s exposure to certain chemical agents, such as drugs of abuse and medicines, by the analysis of human biomarkers, also known as excretion products, in wastewater samples. Although this is a growing field worldwide, mainly in Europe, Oceania, and Asia, limited data from the US are currently available. We developed and validated an analytical method to quantitatively and qualitatively determine the presence of commonly prescribed drugs to treat anxiety (alprazolam, buspirone, clonazepam, lorazepam, and propranolol) and depression (bupropion, citalopram, clomipramine, duloxetine, fluoxetine, imipramine, paroxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine) in wastewater using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSMS). We applied this method in the analysis of 48 authentic wastewater samples, collected from six different wastewater plants in New York City through one year. Ion suppression (n=10) was detected for all the analytes in the method as the matrix effects ranged from -30.6 to -99.6%. All the drugs were detected in at least one location with the exceptions of lorazepam and duloxetine, which were not detected in any plant. The antidepressant venlafaxine was the most commonly detected drug (n=31), with concentrations from 46.5 to 298.5 ng/L. Hunts Point wastewater plant had 10 out of 14 analytes present in the wastewater samples examined compared to the other 5 sites which had 8 analytes or less present in the wastewater samples. The amount of samples positive for antidepressants increased before every holiday except New Year’s Day (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) whereas the amount of samples positive for anxiolytic drugs relatively remained the same or changed by one value throughout the year. We developed and validated a sensitive and specific method for the detection of 14 anxiolytic and antidepressant drugs in wastewater. Wastewater analysis is a valuable tool which can be used to observe drug usage in large and small populations.



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