Safety and quality standards for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been introduced regionally. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule to regulate e-cigarettes, requiring to report harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs). In the United Kingdom, the British Standards Institution (BSI) specified the metals to be monitored for e-cigarettes. In this study, a method was developed and validated for the simultaneous determination of 13 metals (Be, Al, Cr, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, As, Se, Ag, Cd, Sn and Pb) in e-cigarette aerosol. Furthermore, matrix effects of major constituents in the aerosol were investigated using glycerol or 1,2-propylene glycol solutions. E-cigarette aerosol was generated by a rotary smoking machine according to CORESTA Recommended Method N° 81 and collected by an electrostatic precipitator coupled to an impinger containing nitric acid. The collected aerosol was dissolved in nitric acid and an aliquot of this solution was analyzed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) equipped with a collision/reaction cell.
The linearity of the calibration curve was observed in the range of 0.2 to 100 ng/mL for each analyte; the correlation coefficients were 0.998 or larger, the mean recovery of each standard level ranged from 92.6 to 104.5% and the relative standard deviation amounted to max. 9.5%. Accuracy, repeatability and specificity were validated by spiking three different amounts of analytes into e-cigarette aerosol; the mean recovery of each spiking level ranged from 88.7 to 110.3% with a relative standard deviation amounting to max. 9.2% for all analytes. Background contamination from aerosol generation and collection system existed for some analytes, especially for Al, Fe, Cu and Sn. The potential sources of contamination should be identified and controlled to reduce the impact of contamination on quantification. In addition, the actual values for samples should be reported with method blank statistics. Increase of the concentrations of glycerol and 1,2-propylene glycol in the prepared sample led to the overestimation of As and Se. The amount of polyols in the collected aerosol should be monitored and controlled for the accurate quantification of As and Se.