Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Jun 18. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-14921-3. Online ahead of print.
Xenobiotic cannabinoids (phyto and synthetic) are highly lipophilic compounds and have been shown to accumulate within the particulate fraction of wastewater. Limited research has been conducted to investigate the occurrence of cannabinoids in sewage sludge and/or biosolids. The analysis of excreted cannabinoids from sewage sludge or biosolids can provide information about community health, as well as potentially long-term environmental impacts. In this study, a liquid-liquid extraction method was developed for the extraction and detection method for 50 cannabinoids by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, including the cannabis urinary biomarker 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH), Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and a variety of different generation synthetic cannabinoids and their respective metabolites. Method validation assessed criteria including linearity, selectivity, recovery, and matrix effects. The method was applied to samples collected from a conventional activated sludge reactor treatment facility from various stages of the treatment process. Three cannabinoids were abundant in primary sludge including THC, THC-COOH, and CBD, where THC was the most ubiquitous with concentrations up to 3200 μg kg-1. Only THC and THC-COOH were detectable in aged biosolids. The detection of some cannabinoids in biosolids demonstrated that these compounds are stable throughout the treatment process.