Determination of Nicotine, Cotinine and Trans-3'-Hydroxycotinine using LC/MS/MS in Forensic Samples of a Nicotine Fatal Case by Oral Ingestion of e-cigarette Liquid

J Forensic Sci. 2016 Jul;61(4):1149-1154. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13083. Epub 2016 May 30.


Nicotine is a potent neurotoxin alkaloid and is used in e-cigarette liquid. The LC/MS/MS method was linear over 0.01-1.0 mg/L (r2 = 0.992-0.995). Limit of detection and limit of quantitation were 0.001 mg/L (S/N = 3) and 0.003 (S/N = 10). The inaccuracy and imprecision were <13.2%. The recoveries were >99.3%. A 39-year-old dentist was found dead lying on the floor under the couch in his dental clinic. The concentration of nicotine, cotinine, and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine (heart blood/peripheral blood) was analyzed as follows: 87.2/85.2 mg/L (ratio 1.0), 1.4/1.1 mg/L (ratio 1.3), and 0.012/0.0089 mg/L (ratio 1.3), respectively. The concentration of nicotine was determined to be 6734.8 mg/kg in gastric contents and 7262.0 mg/L in remaining e-liquid. Only, high concentration of nicotine was detected in the gastric contents as well as the two pieces of evidence collected from the death scene. This fatal case resulted from oral ingestion of e-cigarette liquid. It is estimated that at least 714 mg of nicotine was orally ingested.

Keywords: cotinine; e-cigarette liquid; fatal; forensic science; liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry; nicotine; trans-3′-hydroxycotinine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports