Evaluation of gas chromatography – electron ionization – full scan high resolution Orbitrap mass spectrometry for pesticide residue analysis

Mol, Hans G.J.; Tienstra, Marc; Zomer, Paul


Gas chromatography with electron ionization and full scan high resolution mass spectrometry with an Orbitrap mass analyzer (GC-EI-full scan Orbitrap HRMS) was evaluated for residue analysis. Pesticides in fruit and vegetables were taken as an example application. The relevant aspects for GC-MS based residue analysis, including the resolving power (15,000 to 120,000 FWHM at m/z 200), scan rate, dynamic range, selectivity, sensitivity, analyte identification, and utility of existing EI-libraries, are assessed and discussed in detail. The optimum acquisition conditions in full scan mode (m/z 50–500) were a resolving power of 60,000 and an automatic-gain-control target value of 3E6. These conditions provided (i) an optimum mass accuracy: within 2 ppm over a wide concentration range, with/without matrix, enabling the use of ±5 ppm mass extraction windows (ii) adequate scan speed: minimum 12 scans/peak, (iii) an intra-scan dynamic range sufficient to achieve LOD/LOQs ≤0.5 pg in fruit/vegetable matrices (corresponding to ≤0.5 μg kg−1) for most pesticides. EI-Orbitrap spectra were consistent over a very wide concentration range (5 orders) with good match values against NIST (EI-quadrupole) spectra. The applicability for quantitative residue analysis was verified by validation of 54 pesticides in three matrices (tomato, leek, orange) at 10 and 50 μg/kg. The method involved a QuEChERS-based extraction with a solvent switch into iso-octane, and 1 μL hot splitless injection into the GC-HRMS system. A recovery between 70 and 120% and a repeatability RSD −1. The pesticides could be identified according to the applicable EU criteria for GC-HRMS (SANTE/11945/2015). GC-EI-full scan Orbitrap HRMS was found to be highly suited for quantitative pesticide residue analysis. The potential of qualitative screening to extend the scope makes it an attractive alternative to GC-triple quadrupole MS.