J Breath Res. 2023 Dec 14. doi: 10.1088/1752-7163/ad15a3. Online ahead of print.
Due to the overall low abundance of volatile compounds in exhaled breath, it is necessary to preconcentrate the sample prior to traditional thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) analysis. While certain aspects of thermal desorption tubes, such as volatile storage, have been evaluated, many aspects remain uncharacterized. Two common thermal desorption tubes, Tenax TA and Biomonitoring 5TD tubes, were evaluated for background content and flow rate variability. The data illustrate that the Biomonitoring 5TD tubes have the highest number (23) and abundance of background contamination greater than 3x the mean noise when compared to Tenax TA (13) and empty tubes (9). Tentative identifications of the compounds in the background contamination experiment show that greater than 59% (16/27) of the compounds identified have been reported in the breath literature. The data illustrate the TD tube background abundance could account for more than 70% of the chromatographic signal from exhaled breath for these select compounds. Flow rate measurements of 200 Tenax TA and 200 Biomonitoring 5TD tubes show a large range in measured flow rates among the TD tubes (Tenax: 252.9-284.0mL min-1, 5TD: 220.6-255.1mL min-1). Finally, TD tubes of each type, Tenax TA and Biomonitoring 5TD, previously established to have high, medium, and low flow rates, show insignificant differences (p>0.05) among the tubes of different flow rates, using both gas standards and an exhaled breath from a peppermint experiment. Collectively, these results establish overall background compounds attributed to each TD tube type tested. Additionally, while measured flow rate variability is present and plausibly impacts exhaled breath results, the data demonstrate no statistically significant difference was observed between tubes showing high, medium, and low flow rates from two separate sample types.