The most common alkyl nitrites encountered in forensic toxicology are iso-butyl, n-butyl and iso-pentyl(amyl) nitrites. All have become popular as an aphrodisiac, especially among the homosexual population. Alkyl nitrites are a volatile and unstable group of compounds, which hydrolyse in aqueous matrices to the alcohol and nitrite ion. Here we describe a fast, clean and sensitive procedure for the detection of hydrolysed n-butyl nitrite in whole human blood using a new, solvent-free sampling technique, the headspace solid-phase micro-extraction (HSPME), combined with GC/FID analysis. Sample preparation was investigated using two different stationary phases (100 microns polydimethylsiloxane and 85 microns polyacrylate), coating a fused silica fibre. The effect of different sampling times at fixed temperatures was also studied. Our results demonstrate that the HSPME/GC/FID procedure allows tracing of n-butyl nitrite abuse and detects hydrolysed n-butyl nitrite, i.e., released n-butanol, in whole blood at the 1 ng/mL level.
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