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Utilizing ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry for the characterization and detection of persistent organic pollutants and their metabolites


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are xenobiotic chemicals of global concern due to their long-range transport capabilities, persistence, ability to bioaccumulate, and potential to have negative effects on human health and the environment. Identifying POPs in both the environment and human body is therefore essential for assessing potential health risks, but their diverse range of chemical classes challenge analytical techniques. Currently, platforms coupling chromatography approaches with mass spectrometry (MS) are the most common analytical methods employed to evaluate both parent POPs and their respective metabolites and/or degradants in samples ranging from d rinking water to biofluids. Unfortunately, different types of analyses are commonly needed to assess both the parent and metabolite/degradant POPs from the various chemical classes. The multiple time-consuming analyses necessary thus present a number of technical and logistical challenges when rapid evaluations are needed and sample volumes are limited. To address these challenges, we characterized 64 compounds including parent per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), industrial chemicals, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), in addition to their metabolites and/or degradants, using ion mobility spectrometry coupled with MS (IMS-MS) as a potential rapid screening technique. Different ionization sources including electrospray ionization (ESI) and atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) were employed to determine optimal ionization for each chemical. Collectively, this study advances the field of exposure assessment by structurally characterizing the 64 important environmental pollutants, assessing their best ionization sources, and evaluating their rapid screening potential with IMS-MS.

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This work was funded, in part, by grants from the National Institutes of Health (P30 ES025128, P42 ES027704, and P42 ES031009) and a cooperative agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (STAR RD 84003201). The views expressed in this manuscript do not reflect those of the funding agencies. The use of specific commercial products in this work does not constitute endorsement by the authors or the funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Erin S. Baker.

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Published in the topical collection Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)– Contaminants of Emerging Concern with guest editors Erin Baker and Detlef Knappe.

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Aly, N.A., Dodds, J.N., Luo, YS. et al. Utilizing ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry for the characterization and detection of persistent organic pollutants and their metabolites. Anal Bioanal Chem 414, 1245–1258 (2022).

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  • Ion Mobility Spectrometry
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • PFAS