Data-Independent Identification of Suspected Organic Pollutants Using Gas Chromatography–Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization–Mass Spectrometry Academic Article uri icon

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  • The identity of an unknown environmental pollutant is reflected by the mass and dissociation chemistry of its (quasi)molecular ion. Gas chromatography-atmospheric pressure chemical ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-APCI-MS) increases the yield of molecular ions (compared to conventional electron ionization) by collisional cooling. Scanning quadrupole data-independent acquisition (SQDIA) permits unbiased, unattended selection of (quasi)molecular ions and acquisition of structure-diagnostic collision-induced dissociation mass spectra, while minimizing interferences, by sequentially cycling a quadrupole isolation window through the m/z range. This study reports on the development of a suspect screening method based on industrial compounds with bioaccumulation potential. A comparison of false and correct identifications in a mixed standard containing 30 analytes suggests that SQDIA results in a markedly lower false-positive rate than standard DIA: 5 for SQDIA and 82 for DIA. Electronic waste dust was analyzed using GC and quadrupole time-of-flight MS with APCI and SQDIA acquisition. A total of 52 brominated, chlorinated, and organophosphorus compounds were identified by suspect screening; 15 unique elemental compositions were identified using nontargeted screening; 17 compounds were confirmed using standards and others identified to confidence levels 2, 3, or 4. SQDIA reduced false-positive identifications, compared to experiments without quadrupole isolation. False positives also varied by class: 20% for Br, 37% for Cl, 75% for P, and >99% for all other classes. The structure proposal of a previously reported halogenated compound was revisited. The results underline the utility of GC-SQDIA experiments that provide information on both the (quasi)molecular ions and its dissociation products for a more confident structural assignment.


  • Schreckenbach, Sophia A
  • Simmons, Denina
  • Ladak, Adam
  • Mullin, Lauren
  • Muir, Derek CG
  • Simpson, Myrna J
  • Jobst, Karl

publication date

  • January 26, 2021