Abstract Free radical detection with ESR spin trapping relies on the specific addition of the radical to nitrone/nitroso compounds. It also has been proposed that spin traps can react in biological systems to give false-positive results. For nitrone spin traps, the reaction with nucleophiles, first described by Forrester and Hepburn, has been discussed as the most critical source of artifacts. For artifact identification, the ESR preincubation method may be used, which employs isotopically marked spin traps. Here we investigated the influence of fast sulfite-hydroxylamine equilibrium chemistry on the validity of this assay. Using the (faster) aspiration technique, we found that the Forrester-Hepburn mechanism also contributes to DMPO/•SO3− adduct formation during ferricyanide-mediated sulfite oxidation, but no evidence for artifactual DMPO/•SO3− formation was found if the more potent horseradish peroxidase was used. This is ESR evidence that the Forrester-Hepburn mechanism can occur under mild conditions, depending on the experimental details. This technique can also be used to test for other artifact mechanisms. We investigated the known ene reaction of DBNBS and tryptophan in more detail. We found that a strong artifact signal is induced by light; however, with atypically long incubations, we found that the artifact is also formed thermally.