Method for the Determination of Carbonyl Compounds in E-Cigarette Aerosols

J Chromatogr Sci. 2017 Feb;55(2):142-148. doi: 10.1093/chromsci/bmw157. Epub 2016 Oct 7.


Low levels of thermal degradation products such as carbonyls (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, crotonaldehyde) have been reported in e-cigarette aerosols. The collection and analysis of e-cigarette aerosol carbonyls are often adapted from methods developed for tobacco cigarette smoke. These methodologies are often not sensitive enough to detect low carbonyl levels in e-cigarette aerosols. One objective of this work was to develop and validate a rapid, selective and sensitive ultra-performance liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry method optimized for analysis of carbonyls in e-cigarette aerosols. Aerosols were trapped in 20-puff collections, 4-s durations, 55-mL volumes, 30-s intervals, square wave puff profiles. Collection apparatus involved a linear smoking machine with Cambridge filter pad followed by a glass impinger containing acidified 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine. This method showed limits of quantitation and detection of 0.016 and 0.003 µg puff-1, respectively, and run time of 4 min. Six e-cigarettes were evaluated (five devices each). All contained measurable levels of carbonyls. Levels were mostly well below those in conventional cigarettes. However, for some e-cigarettes, formaldehyde levels were above those for tobacco cigarettes (highest at 14.1 µg puff-1). Temperatures related to carbonyl yields in e-cigarette aerosols were explored to better understand carbonyl formation: formation of formaldehyde is low at temperatures below 350°C.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis
  • Aerosols / chemistry*
  • Aldehydes / analysis*
  • Aldehydes / chemistry
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Equipment Design
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / instrumentation
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Models, Theoretical


  • Aerosols
  • Aldehydes