Deconvolution of Mass Spectral Interferences of Chlorinated Alkanes and Their Thermal Degradation Products: Chlorinated Alkenes

Chlorinated paraffins (CPs) are high production volume chemicals and ubiquitous environmental contaminants. CPs are produced and used as complex mixtures of polychlorinated n-alkanes containing thousands of isomers, leading to demanding analytical challenges. Due to their high degree of chlorination, CPs have highly complex isotopic mass patterns that often overlap, even when applying high resolution mass spectrometry. This is further complicated in the presence of degradation products such as chlorinated alkenes (CP-enes). CP-enes are formed by dehydrochlorination of CPs and are expected thermal degradation products in some applications of CPs, for example, as metal working fluids. A mathematical method is presented that allows deconvolution of the strongly interfered measured isotope clusters into linear combinations of isotope clusters of CPs and CP-enes. The analytical method applied was direct liquid injection into an atmospheric pressure chemical ionization source, followed by quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (APCI-qTOF-MS), operated in full scan negative ion mode. The mathematical deconvolution method was successfully applied to a thermally aged polychlorinated tridecane formulation (Cl5–Cl9). Deconvolution of mass patterns allowed quantifying fractions of interfering CPs and CP-enes. After exposure to 220 °C for 2, 4, 8, and 24 h, fractions of CP-enes within the respective interfering clusters increased from 0–3% at 0 h up to 37–44% after 24 h. It was shown that thermolysis of CPs follows first-order kinetics. The presented deconvolution method allows CP degradation studies with mass resolution lower than 20000 and is therefore a good alternative when higher resolution is not available.