Rapid and sensitive gas chromatography ion-trap mass spectrometry method for the determination of tobacco specific N-nitrosamines in secondhand smoke
Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are some of the most potent carcinogens in tobacco and cigarette smoke. Accurate quantification of these chemicals is needed to help assess public health risks. We developed and validated a specific and sensitive method to measure four TSNAs in both the gas- and particle-phase of secondhand smoke (SHS) using gas chromatography and ion-trap tandem mass spectrometry,. A smoking machine in an 18-m3 room-sized chamber generated relevant concentrations of SHS that were actively sampled on Teflon coated fiber glass (TCFG) filters, and passively sampled on cellulose substrates. A simple solid-liquid extraction protocol using methanol as solvent was successfully applied to both filters with high recoveries ranging from 85 to 115%. Tandem MS parameters were optimized to obtain the best sensitivity in terms of signal to-noise ratio (S/N) for the target compounds. For each TSNA, the major fragmentation pathways as well as ion structures were elucidated and compared with previously published data. The method showed excellent performances with a linear dynamic range between 2 and 1000 ng mL-1, low detection limits (S/N > 3) of 30-300 pg.ml−1 and precision with experimental errors below 10% for all compounds. Moreover, no interfering peaks were observed indicating a high selectivity of MS/MS without the need for a sample clean up step. The sampling and analysis method provides a sensitive and accurate tool to detect and quantify traces of TSNA in SHS polluted indoor environments.