Comparison of different mass spectrometric techniques for the determination of polychlorinated biphenyls by isotope dilution using 37Cl-labelled analogues
This work presents the comparison of four different mass spectrometric techniques coupled to gas chromatography (single quadrupole ICP-MS, triple quadrupole ICP-MS/MS, single quadrupole NCI-MS and triple quadrupole EI-MS/MS) for the detection of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in environmental samples and their determination by a new isotope dilution mass spectrometry (IDMS) approach. A mixture of twelve priority PCBs labelled with 37Cl was employed as the species-specific isotopically labelled internal standard. The 37Cl-labelled PCBs enable the use of both molecular and elemental ionization sources, such as ICP or NCI, as the isotopic label is in the heteroatom. First, the comparison was carried out by assessing the capabilities of all instruments to measure chlorine isotope ratios and calculating the isotopic enrichment of the labelled analogues. Finally, the analysis of the Certified Reference Material SRM 1941b (organics in marine sediment) containing PCBs in the low ng g−1 range was carried out for method comparison. Elemental ionization sources such as ICP and NCI combined with quadrupole mass spectrometry provided chlorine specific detection and high sensitivity for higher chlorinated compounds but suffered from high background signals from other chlorine containing, co-eluting compounds in the sample which prevented the accurate measurement of PCB-specific chlorine isotope ratios. On the other hand, the use of GC-MS/MS in the selected reaction monitoring mode (SRM) provided selective and accurate measurements but suffered from lower sensitivity for higher chlorinated compounds.