Using mass defect plots as a discovery tool to identify novel fluoropolymer thermal decomposition products
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Fire events involving halogenated materials, such as plastics and electronics, produce complex mixtures that include unidentified toxic and environmentally persistent contaminants. Ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry and mass defect filtering can facilitate compound identification within these complex mixtures. In this study, thermal decomposition products of polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE, [-CClF-CF2 -]n), a common commercial polymer, were analyzed by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Using the mass defect plot as a guide, novel PCTFE thermal decomposition products were identified, including 29 perhalogenated carboxylic acid (PXCA, X = Cl,F) congener classes and 21 chlorine/fluorine substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (X-PAH, X = Cl,F) congener classes. This study showcases the complexity of fluoropolymer thermal decomposition and the potential of mass defect filtering to characterize complex environmental samples.
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