Pepper sprays are used in a variety of circumstances, including criminal activity, self-defense, and law enforcement. As such, the presence or absence of pepper sprays on evidentiary materials is often important when determining the facts of an incident. When no visible stains are present on evidentiary materials, ascertaining the presence or absence of pepper spray can be a challenge to the forensic analyst. A method, based on a chemical derivatization of capsaicinoids using a diazonium salt, has been developed for the visualization of colorless, ultraviolet (UV) activated fluorescent dye-free pepper sprays on textiles. Identification of both the capsaicinoids and their derivatives is confirmed via extraction of the derivatized capsaicinoids followed by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) analysis. LC/MS analysis is conducted using a YMC Basic™ column and elution of the compounds using a gradient of 10 mM ammonium formate, pH 4.2 and methanol at 0.35 mL/min. Full-scan MS data are collected for the full 6.5 min LC analysis. Although this method is qualitative in nature, visual detection of as little as 50 µL of a 0.2% pepper spray (equivalent to ~0.1 mg) on a variety of garments is possible, and more than adequate signal-to-noise is obtained for reconstructed ion chromatograms on LC/MS analysis at these levels.
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