Environmental Scientists: Here’s Why You Should Consider Nominal Mass Spectrometry for Your Routine PFAS and Gen-X Testing in Drinking Water

Apr 18, 2019 | Blogs, Environmental / Industrial | 2 comments

How are you feeling about PFAS regulation right now? If you’re like us, you probably find it hard to pinpoint one specific feeling. But if we took a look at the current state of affairs, we’d all probably agree that it’s a minefield of uncertainty.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  has regulated more than 90 drinking contaminants; setting  Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for specific chemicals in public water supplies. However, there are arguments that these health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion are as many as 10 times too high for Teflon and firefighting foam.

Besides the EPA in the US, there is growing awareness around the globe with regulators in other countries also actively seeking measures to tackle the PFAS problem to protect public health. Yet, in all this; we are seeing structurally similar replacements emerging. PFAS now encompasses a higher number of compounds than ever before. This includes Gen-X chemicals, manufacturing byproducts, chemical precursors, potential degradation products, and many others. As a result, regulated labs must routinely test the water to ensure it’s clear of these chemicals and that it’s safe for human consumption. But what constitutes “safe to drink”? How do labs keep up with the complexity of novel PFAS chemicals and precursors?

Are you an environmental research lab? Find out why our high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (HRMS/MS) solutions are best suited to cutting edge PFAS research:

In this blog, we look at some of the reasons why nominal mass spectrometry technologies are perfect for regulated labs. Industry leaders are already using SCIEX nominal mass instruments that employ QTRAP™ technology.

What analytical technology is best suited to the needs of regulated PFAS and Gen-X testing?

There’s no questioning it, PFAS detection is becoming more complex at a time when regulation is uncertain, and new cases of PFAS contamination hit the headlines daily. Regulated labs need to be prepared for the road ahead.

You’re familiar with EPA Method 537.1, which addresses how environmental laboratories quantify PFAS in drinking water. It positions liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) as the preferred technique, one that is already widely adopted across environmental testing labs. While mass spectrometry techniques have set the standard over the years, QTRAP technology is raising the bar for modern PFAS screening in regulated labs.

Why is QTRAP technology perfect for routine PFAS and Gen-X screening?

Whether you are a water provider, utilities company, or environmental monitoring agency, it is most likely you are facing:

  • Time-intensive methods, from sample prep through data processing, often with multiple analyses per sample
  • Hundreds of diverse compounds, but with limits on the number of compounds and classes you can target per analysis
  • The need for greater sensitivity to detect low-level concentrations and meet regulatory requirements
  • High volume high-throughput workflows that struggle with ‘sticky’ PFAS compounds, resulting in eroded data quality during long runs

Well, guess what? The QTRAP addresses these issues head-on. Not only can it handle high volume, routine PFAS analysis for water samples from multiple sources, but its advanced features will also prepare any environmental testing lab for whatever the future holds.

Just to give you a picture:

  • Triple Quadrupole (QQQ) contains two quadrupole analyzers with a third that acts as a collision cell, this approach delivers low-resolution mass/charge with a good linearity range. It will deliver confidence in identification and quantification at low abundances in complex samples. In this category, SCIEX offers the Triple Quad® range of mass spectrometers.
  • Quadrupole Ion Trap pushes the QQQ to the limits. SCIEX offers the unique QTRAP technology to offer up to 100 times more full-scan sensitivity over basic triple quadrupoles for simultaneous quantitation and library searching. It functions like a standard triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS and also doubles as a linear ion trap (LIT). It’s perfect for routine PFAS screening.

SCIEX QTRAP technology is renowned for delivering sensitivity and selectivity with minimal sample prep, short runtimes, and powerful data processing capabilities. It’s also robust enough to keep up with demanding environmental samples, and it delivers reproducible results. When it comes to meeting the demands of routine PFAS testing, the Triple Quad is a system that every environmental lab should consider.

The SCIEX QTRAP Series: The Power Behind Routine Environmental Testing

When you bring the SCIEX QTRAP Series together with an extensive PFAS MS/MS spectral library in the business, you’ll never look back. And here’s why:

  • The QTRAP offers vigorous and reliable high-throughput quantitative sensitivity, well suited for trace detection of a wide range of potential PFAS compounds in water samples. Total sample runtime takes only 8-10 minutes with sensitivity as low as 0.08 ng/L.
  • The powerful Scheduled MRM™ Algorithm and Curved LINAC® collision cell design in the QTRAP improves the quality of data to ensure fewer peaks are missed and optimal sensitivity is achieved.
  • It possesses the celebrated Turbo V™ Ion Source, which is unique to SCIEX instruments. Perfect for PFAS compounds, it offers enhanced sensitivity in negative ion mode to detect and quantify low concentration analytes in challenging matrices.
  • Combine this with the verified Fluorochemical High-Resolution MS/MS Spectral Library, and you have the most comprehensive PFAS testing solution available on the market. This verified library contains over 600 high-resolution MS/MS spectra for over 250 PFAS for greater confidence in making identifications.
  • SCIEX OS Software 1.5 offers sophisticated workflow and data processing capabilities to deliver a total solution on one platform.
  • Qualifying accuracy and precision. The high sensitivity of the QTRAP reduces sample contamination by allowing a direct, large volume injection to be possible; hitting the required limits of detection without a sample concentration step reduces the instances for sample to touch plastic or Teflon components and minimizes the potential for introducing background.

Together, these features result in a platform with the speed, accuracy, and robustness required for high throughput routine PFAS testing.Download the PFAs Info Kit and Take Your PFAs and Genx Testing to the Next Level

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Craig has worked in the mass spectrometry industry for over 20 years and has been with SCIEX since 2016. As a senior product application specialist, he works with customers to understand their targeted screening workflows and provide solutions using high-resolution accurate mass spectrometry technologies.