Volatile nitrosamines (VNAs) are a group of compounds classified as probable (group 2A) and possible (group 2B) carcinogens in humans. Along with certain foods and contaminated drinking water, VNAs are detected at high levels in tobacco products and in both mainstream and sidestream smoke. Our laboratory monitors six urinary VNAs—N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), N-nitrosomethylethylamine (NMEA), N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), N-nitrosopiperidine (NPIP), N-nitrosopyrrolidine (NPYR), and N-nitrosomorpholine (NMOR)—using isotope dilution GC-MS/MS (QQQ) for large population studies such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In this paper, we report for the first time a new automated sample preparation method to more efficiently quantitate these VNAs. Automation is done using Hamilton STAR?and Caliper Staccato?workstations. This new automated method reduces sample preparation time from 4 hours to 2.5 hours while maintaining precision (inter-run CV < 10%) and accuracy (85% - 111%). More importantly this method increases sample throughput while maintaining a low limit of detection (<10 pg/mL) for all analytes. A streamlined sample data flow was created in parallel to the automated method, in which samples can be tracked from receiving to final LIMs output with minimal human intervention, further minimizing human error in the sample preparation process. This new automated method and the sample data flow are currently applied in bio-monitoring of VNAs in the US non-institutionalized population NHANES 2013-2014 cycle.
Over the past decade, the use of hair specimens for the long-term detection of the alcohol biomarker ethyl glucuronide has been increasing in popularity and usage. We evaluated the usefulness of fingernail clippings as a suitable alternative to hair for ethyl glucuronide detection. A liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method for the detection of ethyl glucuronide in fingernail clippings was fully validated and used to analyze the hair and/or fingernail specimens of 606 college-aged study participants. The limit of detection was 2 pg/mg, the limit of quantitation was 8 pg/mg and the method was linear from 8 to 2000 pg/mg. Intra- and inter-assay imprecision studies at three different concentrations (20, 40, 200 pg/mg) were all within 7.8% and all intra- and inter-assay bias studies at these levels were within 115.1% of target concentration. Ethyl glucuronide levels in fingernail (mean = 29.1 ± 55.6 pg/mg) were higher than ethyl glucuronide levels in hair (mean = 9.48 ± 22.3 pg/mg) and a correlation of the matched pairs was observed (r= 0.552,P< 0.01,n= 529). Evaluating each gender separately revealed that the correlation of male fingernail to male hair was large and significant (r= 0.782,P< 0.01,n= 195) while female hair to female fingernail was small yet significant (r= 0.249,P< 0.01,n= 334). The study results demonstrated that fingernail may be a suitable alternative to hair for ethyl glucuronide detection and may be the preferred sample type due to the lack of a gender bias.