Epidemiological studies often call for analytical methods that use a small biospecimen volume to quantify trace level exposures to environmental chemical mixtures. Currently, as many as 150 polar metabolites of environmental chemicals have been found in urine. Therefore, we developed a multi-class method for quantitation of biomarkers in urine. A single sample preparation followed by three LC injections was optimized in a proof-of-approach for a multi-class method. The assay was validated to quantify 50 biomarkers of exposure in urine, belonging to 7 chemical classes and 16 sub-classes. The classes represent metabolites of 12 personal care and consumer product chemicals (PCPs), 5 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 5 organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs), 18 pesticides, 5 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 4 tobacco alkaloids, and 1 drug of abuse. Human urine (0.2 mL) was spiked with isotope-labeled internal standards, enzymatically deconjugated, extracted by solid-phase extraction, and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The methanol eluate from the cleanup was split in half and the first half analyzed for PCPs, PAH, and OPFR on a Betasil C18 column; and pesticides and VOC on a Hypersil Gold AQ column. The second half was analyzed for tobacco smoke metabolites and a drug of abuse on a Synergi Polar RP column. Limits of detection ranged from 0.01 to 1.0 ng/mL of urine, with the majority ≤0.5 ng/mL (42/50). Analytical precision, estimated as relative standard deviation of intra- and inter-batch uncertainty, variabilities, was <20%. Extraction recoveries ranged from 83 to 109%. Results from the optimized multi-class method were qualified in formal international proficiency testing programs. Further method customization options were explored and method expansion was demonstrated by inclusion of up to 101 analytes of endo- and exogenous chemicals. This exposome-scale assay is being used for population studies with savings of assay costs and biospecimens, providing both quantitative results and the discovery of unexpected exposures. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5943-5966
Number of pages24
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • Biomonitoring
  • Chemical mixtures
  • Exposome
  • Exposure assessment
  • Multi-class assay


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