Fine-tuning Environmental Health Preparedness and Response with HRMS
By Nicholas Ancona , MPH , specialist , Environmental Health
The use of sophisticated high-resolution mass spectrometry ( HRMS ) enables public health laboratories to identify a variety of environmental contaminants and exogenous compounds such as perand polyfluoroalkyl substances ( PFAS ), pesticides and drugs . The availability of reference libraries for these applications also enhances chemical emergency preparedness and response capabilities . Thus , HRMS libraries can be powerful identification tools for emerging and unknown chemical threats .
“ HRMS techniques will have a significant impact on the landscape of chemical threat preparedness and response in the future ,” said Amy Watson , PhD , LRN-C program director at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’ s
( CDC ’ s ) National Center for Environmental Health . “ By leveraging the analytical collaborations that occur amongst Laboratory Response Network for Chemical Threats
( LRN-C ) laboratories , the LRN-C is already well positioned to expand its detection capabilities to include the identification of unknown chemical threats .”
Shawn O ’ Leary Program Manger , New Jersey Department of Health Public Health Laboratory
New Jersey ’ s ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography ( UHPLC ) quadrupole time of flight ( Q-ToF ) instrument has expanded Chemical Terrorism capacity for performing food and medicinal marijuana analysis . The ability to increase flow rate has reduced run times by 10 minutes and thus increased throughput . A laboratorydeveloped method for the detection of pesticides in fruit juices was completed in February 2022 . The increased sensitivity gained with UHPLC improved the method to reliably measure pesticides below the levels set by current government regulations . This instrument will also be validated to determine pesticides in medicinal marijuana . These two new methods will now be able to detect trace levels of toxic pesticides in juices and medicinal marijuana , essential for protecting public health .
Sinisa Urban , PhD Division Chief , Maryland Department of Health Laboratories Administration
PFAS are synthetic “ forever chemicals ” that have become widespread environmental contaminants with a variety of health effects including cancer , immune dysfunction and reduced responses to vaccines . Current analytical chemistry methods are able to detect no more than 40 of the more than 7,000 PFAS in US Environmental Protection Agency
( EPA ) databases . In contrast , HRMS is an emerging technology with the ability to measure all PFAS in a sample . The Division of Environmental Sciences at the Maryland Department of Health Laboratories Administration was awarded two APHL grants to bring on HRMS for non-targeted PFAS testing . The Division is now exploring with EPA how best to develop this transformative methodology further , and since August has subjected every water sample submitted for PFAS testing to HRMS . The Division is on track to have recorded more than 1,000 highresolution mass spectra of waters from across Maryland by the summer , which could be the largest such dataset ever compiled for PFAS . •
( from l to r :) Daniel Wene , Sarah Desrochers , and Annie Lin work together to detect trace levels of toxic pesticides in juices and medicinal marijuana . Photo : NJ PHL
APHL HRMS Activities
• APHL recently surveyed
member laboratories to assess national HRMS capability and capacity . These survey data inform APHL / CDC efforts to improve the efficiency , quality and sensitivity of HRMS .
• Training in method development / optimization , instrument operation / maintenance , spectral library management , and LIMS integration is essential . To address these needs , APHL collaborated with Sustaining Members to provide analytical training to over 300 beginner , intermediate and advanced scientists at the spring 2021 LRN-C Technical Meeting .
• APHL continues to facilitate HRMS training opportunities through funding awards to member laboratories . A list of HRMS training opportunities and an application form for laboratories to request funding assistance is available by emailing eh @ aphl . org
• APHL awarded a total of $ 250,000 to public health laboratories for HRMS through a competitive request for proposals ( RFP ). Awardees have made great strides in improving their analytical abilities on innovative projects .