Helium, a minor component of natural gas and radioactive minerals, is most commonly used as a carrier in gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Its scarcity leads to limited availability and higher costs. In this experiment, hydrogen from a safe source of a hydrogen generator was tested as a substitutive carrier gas for the detection of adulterant in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and food supplements by GC-MS analysis. We found that the limits of detection (LODs) of using hydrogen were from 10 to 1000 μg/g. The levels of LODs tested among 170 drugs remain the same whether hydrogen or helium was used as a carrier gas with the exception of 7 drugs-benzbromarone, estradiol benzoate, bezafibrate, mefenamic acid, oxymetholone, piperidenafil and cetilistat. The real sample analysis results using hydrogen were as satisfactory as those using helium. In addition, the retention time was shortened after the chromatographic performance was optimized. In summary, it is worth considering hydrogen as a carrier gas due to its affordable costs, energy efficiency, carbon reduction and chromatographic advantages to detect adulterated drugs in TCM and dietary supplement using GC-MS.
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