In this study, a multiresidue analytical method was developed, validated, and applied for quantifying 85 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including 38 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 23 polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and 24 organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) from 200 μL of human serum. A modified QuEChERS (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged, and Safe) method was applied to minimize the required sample amount and optimize various conditions including the extraction solvent and the number of extractions. The extraction efficiency was optimized using double extraction with an ethyl acetate/hexane/acetone mixture. Gas chromatography coupled with triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry was used for analysis, and two different ionization sources, electron impact ionization (EI) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI), were used to compare their sensitivity. The APCI source employed soft ionization at atmospheric pressure, producing abundant molecular ion formation with minimal fragmentation, in contrast to extensive fragmentation caused by EI. Of the 85 POPs analyzed, 59 target compounds (69.4%) showed lower limits of detection that were two- to fifty-fold lower in APCI than those determined using EI. The developed method was validated for its detection limit (0.5-10 pg/mL for PCBs, 2-20 pg/mL for PBDEs, and 2-40 pg/mL for OCPs), precision (0.8%-34.3% of coefficient of variation), recovery (49.6%-77.1%), matrix effect (46.7%-156.9%), and accuracy (81.2%-113.1% for PCBs, 85.8%-112.2% for PBDEs, and 55.2%-113.9% for OCPs). Its linearity was R2 > 0.99 for 84 compounds, and 96% average accuracy (for APCI) was obtained using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standard reference materials (NIST 1957 and 1958). These ionization methods were compared by analyzing 25 real human serum samples. The observed species were 1.1-24.6 pg/mL of 28 PCBs, 2.5 pg/mL of BDE-47, and 6.5-195.1 pg/mL of 6 organochlorine pesticides (median concentration for each species), and only 11 compounds were detected with APCI owing to its enhanced sensitivity.
Keywords: Atmospheric pressure chemical ionization Electron impact ionization Human serum Persistent organic pollutants QuEChERS