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Gas Chromatography/Electron Ionization-Mass Spectrometry-Selected Ion Monitoring Screening Method for a Thorough Investigation of Polyhalogenated Compounds in Passive Sampler Extracts with Quadrupole Systems

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posted on 2010-12-01, 00:00 authored by Natalie Rosenfelder, Nathan J. Van Zee, Jochen F. Mueller, Caroline Gaus, Walter Vetter
Nontarget analysis and identification of unknown polyhalogenated compounds is important in acquiring a thorough picture of the present pollution status as well as for identifying emerging environmental problems. Such analyses usually require the application of electron ionization mass spectrometry because the resulting mass spectra frequently allow for compound identification. When quadrupoles are used as mass separators, the full scan technique often suffers from low sensitivity along with nonspecificity for polyhalogenated trace compounds which often result in interference by matrix compounds. We have developed a novel nontarget gas chromatography/electron ionization-mass spectrometry-selected ion monitoring (GC/EI-MS-SIM) method that overcomes these sensitivity and selectivity issues. Our method is based on the fact that the molecular ions and isotope patterns of polyhalogenated compounds involve the most relevant primary information with regard to the structure of polyhalogenated compounds. Additionally, the retention times of polyhalogenated compounds generally increase with increasing molecular weight. The retention time range of polyhalogenated compounds was divided in three partly overlapping segments of 112 u (segment A: m/z 300−412; segment B: m/z 350−462; segment C: m/z 450−562) that were screened in eight GC runs consisting of 15 consecutive SIM ions. This method was tested with a passive water sampler extract known to contain over 30 polyhalogenated compounds according to the sensitive analysis by GC/electron capture negative ion (ECNI)-MS. While none of these polyhalogenated compounds could be detected by GC/EI-MS in full scan mode, our nontarget GC/EI-MS-SIM method allowed for the detection of 38 polyhalogenated compounds. Only seven could be identified by means of reference standards while more than 15 of the unknowns could be traced back to at least the class of compounds based on the mass spectrometric data from the nontarget SIM runs. All compounds identified originated from halogenated natural products. The nontarget GC/EI-MS-SIM method combines the high sensitivity obtainable with quadrupole systems for trace analysis with the structural information essential for the identification of unknown pollutants.

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