Institute of Reproductive and Child Health, Peking University/ Key Laboratory of Reproductive Health, National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China, Beijing, 100191, PR China; Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, 100191, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]
The degree of population exposure to various organic pollutants (OPs), including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, can be determined by measuring their concentrations in human serum. However, performing large-scale measurements with such a variety of compounds in serum is challenging in terms of efficiency and cost. We describe herein the development of a high-efficiency extraction and sample cleanup protocol for simultaneous and quantitative analyses of OPs using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. OPs, together with crude lipid impurities, were extracted from human serum with a mixture of n-hexane and methyl tert-butyl ether. A disperse sorbent composed of primary secondary amine and C18 (PSA/C18) was used to roughly remove co-extracted impurities. A combined column of neutral silica gel and neutral alumina oxide (AlO/SiG) was then used for deep cleanup. For the removal of impurities, the overall performance of our protocol for the analysis of OPs in serum was comparable to that of traditional gel permeation chromatography (GPC) and dramatically better than that of PSA/C18, which is a frequently used QuEChERS (quick, easy, cheap, effective, rugged, safe) based method. While both the proposed protocol and GPC yielded recoveries of 80%-110% for four classes of OPs, our protocol consumed about 10 times less solvent, resulting in lower experimental expenses and a lower risk of contamination from residual OPs in the solvent and other supplies. In contrast to GPC, our protocol also permits efficient batch processing of serum samples, allowing for large sample sizes such as those encountered in epidemiological studies.