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Suspect Screening, Prioritization, and Confirmation of Environmental Chemicals in Maternal-Newborn Pairs from San Francisco


Our proof-of-concept study develops a suspect screening workflow to identify and prioritize potentially ubiquitous chemical exposures in matched maternal/cord blood samples, a critical period of development for future health risks. We applied liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF/MS) to perform suspect screening for ∼3500 industrial chemicals on pilot data from 30 paired maternal and cord serum samples (n = 60). We matched 662 suspect features in positive ionization mode and 788 in negative ionization mode (557 unique formulas overall) to compounds in our database, and selected 208 of these for fragmentation analysis based on detection frequency, correlation in feature intensity between maternal and cord samples, and peak area differences by demographic characteristics. We tentatively identified 73 suspects through fragmentation spectra matching and confirmed 17 chemical features (15 unique compounds) using analytical standards. We tentatively identified 55 compounds not previously reported in the literature, the majority which have limited to no information about their sources or uses. Examples include (i) 1-(1-acetyl-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin-4-yl)-3-dodecylpyrrolidine-2,5-dione (known high production volume chemical) (ii) methyl perfluoroundecanoate and 2-perfluorooctyl ethanoic acid (two PFAS compounds); and (iii) Sumilizer GA 80 (plasticizer). Thus, our workflow demonstrates an approach to evaluating the chemical exposome to identify and prioritize chemical exposures during a critical period of development.

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