Comparative study of comprehensive gas chromatography-nitrogen chemiluminescence detection and gas chromatography-ion trap-tandem mass spectrometry for determining nicotine and carcinogen organic nitrogen compounds in thirdhand tobacco smoke

Noelia Ramirez, Laura Vallecillo, Alastair Lewis, Francesc Borrull, Rosa M. Marce, Jacqui Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thirdhand tobacco smoke (THS) constitutes a poorly understood pathway of exposure of non-smokers, especially toddlers, to tobacco-related carcinogens. However, to date most of the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke have not been detected in THS and, therefore, the significance of THS health risk is still unknown. In this study, we have compared the performance of two analytical methods – one based on gas chromatography coupled to ion trap mass spectrometry detection (GC-IT-MS) and the other on comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to a nitrogen chemiluminescence detector (GC × GC-NCD) – for simultaneously determining, in settled house dust, the presence of 16 organic nitrogen carcinogens already detected in tobacco smoke. The target compounds included four aromatic amines, two nitrocompounds, eight N-nitrosamines and two tobacco-specific nitrosamines, as well as nicotine as a tobacco marker. Dust samples were extracted using in-cell clean up pressurized liquid extraction with silica as clean up sorbent and ethyl acetate as the organic solvent, with average recovery of 89%. Although GC-IT-MS, using chemical ionization with methanol and tandem MS, performed well, the optimized GC × GC-NCD gave lower limits of detection (from 4 to 22 ng g−1) and better repeatability and reproducibility a low concentration levels (%RSD < 8%) and, therefore, was applicable for determining these different groups of carcinogens without the need for derivatization prior to the GC analysis. The performance of the optimized PLE/GC × GC-NCD method was tested by quantifying the target compounds in house dust samples from smokers’ and non-smokers’ homes. The median carcinogen compounds detected was 3.8 μg g−1 and 1.1 μg g−1 in smokers’ and non-smokers’ house dust, respectively. In this study, we have detected highly carcinogenic aromatic amines and nitro compounds for the first time in settled house dust complementing the state of knowledge of THS composition and providing fresh evidence about THS health risks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2015

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