Surface swabbing technique for the rapid screening for pesticides using ambient pressure desorption ionization with high-resolution mass spectrometry

Authors: Elizabeth Crawford, Brian Musselman
Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2011, Jan, 15, 25(1), 127-39


A rapid screening method for pesticides has been developed to promote more efficient processing of produce entering the United States. Foam swabs were used to recover a multiclass mixture of 132 pesticides from the surfaces of grapes, apples, and oranges. The swabs were analyzed using direct analysis in real time (DART®) ionization coupled with a high-resolution Exactive Orbitrap™ mass spectrometer. By using a DART® helium temperature gradient from 100-350°C over 3 min, a minimal separation of analytes based on volatility differences was achieved. This, combined with the Exactive's mass resolution of 100,00, allowed the chromatographic step, along with the typical compositing and extraction steps associated with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) approaches, to be eliminated. Detection of 86% of the analytes present was consistently achieved at levels of 2 ng/g (per each apple or orange) and 10 ng/g (per grape). A resolution study was conducted with four pairs of isobaric compounds analyzed at a mass resolution of 100 000. Baseline separation was achieved with analyte ions differing in mass by 25 ppm and analyte ions with a mass difference of 10 ppm were partially resolved. In addition, field samples that had undergone traditional sample preparation using QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, rugged, and safe) were analyzed using both LC/MS and DART®-MS and the results from the two techniques were found to be comparable in terms of identification of the pesticides present. The use of swabs greatly increased sample throughput by reducing sample preparation and analysis time.