Evaluating a direct swabbing method for screening pesticides on fruit and vegetable surfaces using direct analysis in real time (DART®) coupled to an Exactive benchtop orbitrap mass spectrometer

Authors: Elizabeth Crawford, Brian Musselman
Anal Bioanal Chem. 2012, Feb, 25, [Epub ahead of print],


Rapid screening of pesticides present on the surfaces of fruits and vegetables has been facilitated by using a Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART®®) open air surface desorption ionization source coupled to an Exactive® high-resolution accurate mass benchtop orbitrap mass spectrometer. The use of cotton and polyester cleaning swabs to collect and retain pesticides for subsequent open air desorption ionization is demonstrated by sampling the surface of various produce to which solutions of pesticides have been applied at levels 10 and 100 times below the tolerance levels established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Samples analyzed include cherry tomatoes, oranges, peaches and carrots each chosen for their surface characteristics which include: smooth, pitted, fuzzy, and rough respectively. Results from the direct analysis of fungicides on store-bought oranges are also described. In all cases, the swabs were introduced directly into the heated ionizing gas of the DART® source resulting in production of protonated pesticide molecules within seconds of sampling. Operation of the orbitrap mass spectrometer at 25,000 full-width half maximum resolution was sufficient to generate high-quality accurate mass data. Stable external mass calibration eliminated the need for addition of standards typically required for mass calibration, thus allowing multiple analyses to be completed without instrument recalibration.
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