By using silver cations (Ag+) as the ionic reagent in reactive extractive electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (EESI-MS), the concentrations of acetonitrile in exhaled breath samples from the volunteers including active smokers, passive smokers, and non-smokers were quantitatively measured in vivo, without any sample pretreatment. A limit of detection (LOD) and relative standard deviation (RSD) were 0.16 ng/L and 3.5% (n = 8), respectively, for the acetonitrile signals in MS/MS experiments. Interestingly, the concentrations of acetonitrile in human breath continuously increased for 1-4 hours after the smoker finished smoking and then slowly decreased to the background level in 7 days. The experimental data of a large number of (> 165) samples indicated that the inhaled acetonitrile is excreted most likely by facilitated diffusion, instead of simple diffusion reported previously for other volatile compounds.
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