Analysis of whole human blood for Pb, Cd, Hg, Se, and Mn by ICP-DRC-MS for biomonitoring and acute exposures

Talanta. 2017 Jan 1;162:114-122. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2016.09.060. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


We improved our inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) whole blood method [1] for determination of lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and mercury (Hg) by including manganese (Mn) and selenium (Se), and expanding the calibration range of all analytes. The method is validated on a PerkinElmer (PE) ELAN® DRC II ICP-MS (ICP-DRC-MS) and uses the Dynamic Reaction Cell (DRC) technology to attenuate interfering background ion signals via ion-molecule reactions. Methane gas (CH4) eliminates background signal from 40Ar2+ to permit determination of 80Se+, and oxygen gas (O2) eliminates several polyatomic interferences (e.g. 40Ar15N+, 54Fe1H+) on 55Mn+. Hg sensitivity in DRC mode is a factor of two higher than vented mode when measured under the same DRC conditions as Mn due to collisional focusing of the ion beam. To compensate for the expanded method's longer analysis time (due to DRC mode pause delays), we implemented an SC4-FAST autosampler (ESI Scientific, Omaha, NE), which vacuum loads the sample onto a loop, to keep the sample-to-sample measurement time to less than 5min, allowing for preparation and analysis of 60 samples in an 8-h work shift. The longer analysis time also resulted in faster breakdown of the hydrocarbon oil in the interface roughing pump. The replacement of the standard roughing pump with a pump using a fluorinated lubricant, Fomblin®, extended the time between pump maintenance. We optimized the diluent and rinse solution components to reduce carryover from high concentration samples and prevent the formation of precipitates. We performed a robust calculation to determine the following limits of detection (LOD) in whole blood: 0.07µgdL-1 for Pb, 0.10µgL-1 for Cd, 0.28μgL-1 for Hg, 0.99µgL-1 for Mn, and 24.5µgL-1 for Se.

Keywords: Biomonitoring; Blood lead; Cadmium; ICP-MS; Manganese; Mercury; Reaction cell; Selenium; Whole blood.

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium / blood
  • Calibration
  • Dietary Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Lead / blood
  • Manganese / blood
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Mercury / blood
  • Quality Control
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Selenium / blood
  • Trace Elements / blood*
  • Trace Elements / standards


  • Trace Elements
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • Mercury
  • Selenium