There is an increasing need to monitor concentrations of polar organic contaminants in the aquatic environment. Integrative passive samplers can be used to assess time weighted average aqueous concentrations, provided calibration data are available and sampling rates are known. The sampling rate depends on environmental factors, such as temperature and water flow rate. Here we introduce an apparatus to investigate the sampling properties of passive samplers using river-like flow conditions and ambient environmental matrices: river water and treated sewage effluent. As a model sampler we selected Empore™ SDB-RPS disks in a Chemcatcher housing. The disks were exposed for 1 to 8 days at flow rates between 0.03 and 0.4 m s–1. Samples were analysed using a bioassay for estrogenic activity and by LC-MS-MS target analysis of the pharmaceuticals sulfamethoxazole, carbamazepine and clarithromycin. In order to assess sampling rates of SDB disks, we also measured aqueous concentrations of the pharmaceuticals. Sampling rates increased with increasing flow rate and this relationship was not affected by the environmental matrix. However, SDB disks were only sampling in the integrative mode at low flow rates <0.1 m s–1 and/or for short sampling times. The duration of linear uptake was particularly short for sulfamethoxazole (1 day) and longer for clarithromycin (5 days). At 0.03 m s–1 and 12–14 °C, the sampling rate of SDB disks was 0.09 L day–1 for clarithromycin, 0.14 L day–1 for sulfamethoxazole and 0.25 L day–1 for carbamazepine. The results show that under controlled conditions, SDB disks can be effectively used as passive sampling devices.
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