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Fields & Applications Environmental

Exploring Pesticides Without Bugbears

sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific

Then: 2009

I’ve worked in several fields over the years, first as a professor, then in the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries – and even the United States Equestrian Federation. During that time I’ve used many different analytical platforms from most of the major manufacturers. In particular, I have extensive experience in mass spectrometry and know what I need (and want) in a system – and what I don’t. One bugbear of mine has always been the cleaning of the ion transfer tube. It typically used to take several hours and resulted in the instrument being down for most of a day. I’d rather not think too much about the time wasted on this menial task! Looking back, down time in general has plagued certain MS systems, which is a significant inconvenience – especially in routine environments where meeting deadlines is key.

In 2014, I joined Microbac Laboratories, which runs one of the world’s most diversified commercial laboratory networks, serving a client base of thousands. Essentially, we’re responsible for delivering information that businesses need to survive, so dependable results are a cornerstone of our company. Just after I joined, we experienced a significant expansion to the business and needed to increase our LC-MS capability for a range of analyses – including routine pesticide screening – and started looking for the best solutions available.

The big challenge in pesticide residue analysis is setting up a good, robust method, which includes setting up the right transitions for all the compounds to minimize interferences. We wanted a system that we could get up and running as soon as possible – preferably a total solution. 

Now: 2016

In 2015, we made the decision to purchase the standard quantitation solution from the Thermo Scientific™ Pesticide Explorer Collection. Our particular kit includes the Thermo Scientific TSQ Endura™ Triple Quadrupole MS and the Thermo Scientific Vanquish™ UHPLC. We’ve been using the system for about a year now, so we’ve had enough time to assess various aspects. And I can honestly say I am impressed.

First of all, you get a lot of value for money, which is a consideration that doesn’t always get discussed. The competitive price belies the fact that you walk away with a complete workflow – everything you need from sample preparation to data analysis for quantitation of nearly 300 pesticides (we use the short method). And having a method ready to roll straight out of the box really makes life easier for the analysts. It’s a real workhorse that enables us to reduce our time to results, which is also good for our customers – in fact, we’ve been able to halve our turnaround time. Equally importantly, we have confidence in those results.

Another key point for us is the absence of carry over, which can be challenging with certain systems. The low levels of maintenance required in general (and the ease with which maintenance can be conducted) result in additional cost savings. Over the year we’ve had our Pesticide Explorer solution, we’ve experienced no problems that have resulted in down time. Given that we have the system running 24/7, that’s not just good – it’s surprising!

But what do I really love about the Endura? The fact that you can take out the ion transfer tube, clean it, and put it back in 10 minutes – all without breaking the vacuum. My bugbear has finally been vanquished!

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About the Author

Mohamed Hamad

Director, Food Chemistry & Nutrition, Microbac Laboratories, Pennsylvania, USA.

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