Within the scope of a number of emerging contaminant issues in environmental analysis, one area that has received a great deal of public interest has been the assessment of the role of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) as stressors and agents of change in ecosystems as well as their role in unplanned human exposure. The relationship between personal actions and the occurrence of PPCPs in the environment is comprehensible to the public. In this overview, we attempt to examine the separations aspect of the analytical approach to the vast array of potential analytes among this class of compounds. We also highlight the relationship between these compounds and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), and between PPCPs and EDCs and the more traditional environmental analytes such as the persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Although the spectrum of chemical behavior extends from hydrophobic to hydrophilic, the current focus has shifted to moderate and highly polar analytes. Thus, emphasis on HPLC and LC/MS has grown and MS/MS has become a detection technique of choice with either electro-spray ionization or atmospheric pressure chemical ionization. This contrasts markedly with the bench mark approach of capillary GC, GC/MS and electron ionization in traditional environmental analysis. The expansion of the analyte list has fostered new vigor in the development of environmental analytical chemistry, modernized the range of tools applied, and has revealed the need for awareness of the parallel developments in pharmaceutical analysis and biomedical analysis. We place particular emphasis on the separations that undergird successful analysis of PPCPs and the final separation/detection that provides the primary data upon which risk assessments and other determinations will ultimately be based. We suggest that the new emphasis on PPCPs has now defined a turning point in environmental analysis and set the stage for a significant new challenge that we briefly explore in this appraisal of the field.
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