Pyrrolizidine alkaloids quantified in soil and water using UPLC-MS/MS†
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are produced in plants as defence compounds against insects. PAs present a serious health risk to humans and livestock; therefore it is necessary to have a validated analytical method to monitor PAs in the environment. The objective of this work is to present an UPLC-MS/MS method for quantification of PAs in environmental samples of both soil and water. A fast, reliable, and sensitive approach is developed to identify and quantify PAs in soil and water. Sample preparation was performed by clean-up and pre-concentration of the samples using MCX solid phase extraction cartridges with full optimization, and then PAs were determined by UPLC coupled with TQ-MS. In the liquid chromatography, most of the parameters were optimized and tested including gradient time, solvents, additives, and pH of the mobile phases and flow rate. In addition, the MS parameters of cone voltage, desolvation temperature, cone flows, and collision energy were optimized. The instrument limit of detection (2–7 μg L−1) and limit of quantification (5–9 μg L−1) were determined experimentally, and the method was linearity validated up to 1000 μg L−1. The method was applied to analyse soil and surface water samples collected in April and May 2018 in Vejle, Borup, and Holte, Denmark. In total, 15 PAs were quantified and reported for the first time in environmental samples, in a range of 3–1349 μg kg−1 in soil and 4–270 μg L−1 in surface water.