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Rapid screening of high-priority N-nitrosamines in pharmaceutical, forensic, and environmental samples with paper spray ionization and filter cone spray ionization-mass spectrometry

NCJ Number
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Date Published

This study explored rapid and reliable screening methods to identify the presence of N-nitrosamine.


The burgeoning concern of N-nitrosamine (NAM) contamination found in various pharmaceutical compositions has increased the demand for rapid and reliable screening methods to better assess the breadth of the problem. These carcinogenic compounds are also found in food, water, and soil, and they have been used in poison-related homicides. In undertaking this challenge, the current project used a combination of complementary, ambient ionization methods, paper spray ionization (PSI), and filter cone spray ionization (FCSI)-mass spectrometry (MS), was characterized towards trace-level residue screening of select NAMs (e.g., N-nitrosodimethylamine, N-nitrosodiethylamine, N-nitrosodibutylamine) directly from complex and problematic matrices of interest, including prescription and over-the-counter tablets, drinking water, soil, and consumable goods. Spectral data for analyte confirmation and detection limit studies were collected using a Thermo LCQ Fleet ion trap mass spectrometer. PSI-MS and FCSI-MS readily produced mass spectral data marked by their simplicity (e.g., predominantly protonated molecular ions observed) and congruence with traditional electrospray ionization mass spectra in under 2 min. per sample. Both methods proved robust to the complex matrices tested, yielding ion signatures for target NAMs, as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients for analyzed tablets, flavorants inherent to food products, etc. Low part-per-million detection limits were observed but were shown dependent on sample composition. (Published abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023