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Identification of triglycerides in liquid and fire debris samples by triple quadrupole liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.

  • Bryant, Craig M1
  • Warnica, Josephine M2
  • Chen, Rachel1
  • Shepard, Cara1
  • 1 Centre of Forensic Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 2 University of McGill, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Journal of forensic sciences
Publication Date
Nov 02, 2020
DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.14612
PMID: 33136299


Analysis of fire debris for triglyceride-based oils may be of interest to fire investigators depending on the circumstances of a particular fire. Such circumstances include accidental or intentionally set cooking oil fires, fires involving triglyceride-based "eco" fire log products, and spontaneous ignition fires that involve drying oils on rags. Many forensic laboratories utilize gas chromatography-mass spectrometry following fatty acid methyl esterification to identify triglyceride residues in fire debris extracts. This study explores an alternate approach, which involves the identification of intact triglycerides by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). 52 triglyceride-based oils and fats (22 different types) were analyzed by LC-MS/MS using multiple reaction monitoring to investigate variation in triglyceride content between different brands and types of oil and fat. Selected oils were then degraded by exposure to air, typical cooking conditions and/or fire conditions to simulate samples that are typically encountered by Fire Debris Analysts in fire investigation cases. Triglycerides were identified in all pristine and degraded oil samples, and relative peak areas for degraded samples often resembled their pristine oil counterparts. In samples where relative peak area differences were noted, more predominant degradation was observed for triglycerides with a higher proportion of poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Variability in triglyceride content between different brands and types of oil are discussed, as well as factors affecting the identification of triglyceride peaks in commercial oil samples, as compared to the corresponding analytical standard. © 2020 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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