N-nitrosamines have recently attracted attention as a class of disinfection byproducts and are also a hot spot in environmental studies. Current N-nitrosamine analytical methods typically involve manual solid phase extraction (SPE) of samples followed by quantitative analysis using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS), which is time-consuming and may also fail to eliminate complex matrix effects. Size exclusion chromatography (SEC) is a technique that can separate compounds according to their molecular size. For the first time, this study developed an Online-SPE/SEC/LCMS quantitative analysis method to detect and analyze nine common N-nitrosamine disinfection byproducts in wastewater plant tailwater, including N-dimethylnitrosamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), etc. The samples of 1.0 mL can be directly injected after the simple 0.22 μm membrane filtration. This method reports the combination of SPE, SEC, and RP C18 columns to achieve several functions in a processing time of 20 min, including online enrichment, desalination, and matrix separation for the first time. The method provides good linearity (R2
> 0.999), recoveries ranging from 91.67% to 105.88%, relative standard deviation (RSD) lower than 4.17%, and the limits of detection (LOD) are 0.12–6.60 ng/L. This method alleviates tedious human labor and can effectively overcome the matrix effect (ME
< 20%). This method allows for the accurate quantitative analysis of N-nitrosamines with high compatibility in wastewater plant tailwater, rivers, and lakes with a high background matrix. Interested researchers can also use this method as a reference in the online analysis of other specific pollutants after necessary optimization. It can also be utilized for non-targeted screening and targeted analysis of contaminants in water with a wide range of applications, giving valuable information for environmental monitoring.
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