Detecting trace pesticides in real time using single particle aerosol mass spectrometry

Zachary Barker, Veena Venkatchalam, Audrey N. Martin, George R. Farquar, Matthias Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Pesticides are toxic substances and may cause unintentional harm if improperly used. The ubiquitous nature of pesticides, with frequent use in agriculture and the household, and the potential for harm that pesticides pose to non-target organisms such as wildlife, humans, and pets, demonstrate the need for rapid and effective detection and identification of these compounds. In this study, single particle aerosol mass spectrometry (SPAMS) was used to rapidly detect compounds from four classes of pesticides commonly used in agricultural and household applications. These include permethrin (pyrethroid class), malathion and dichlorvos (organophosphate class), imidacloprid (chloronicotinyl class), and carbaryl (carbamate class). Analytical standards of each compound were diluted and aerosolized using a nebulizer to create particles for analysis in the SPAMS instrument. The resultant dual-polarity time-of-flight mass spectra were then analyzed to identify the characteristic peaks of the compound in each sample. In addition, samples of commercial products containing pesticides, a commercial insecticide spray, containing permethrin, and a canine flea collar, containing carbaryl, were analyzed in their original form using SPAMS without any significant sample preparation. The characteristic mass spectral peaks of the active pesticides in these samples were identified using the mass spectra obtained earlier from the pesticide analytical standards. By successfully identifying pesticides in analytical standards and in commercial products, it is demonstrated herein that the SPAMS system may be capable of pesticide detection in numerous environmental and agricultural situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-194
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 28 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerosol analysis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Pesticide analysis
  • Single particle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Environmental Chemistry


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