Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science



First Advisor

Marta Concheiro-Guisan

Second Reader

Shu-Yuan Cheng

Third Advisor

Madeleine J. Swortwood


Alcohol exposure during pregnancy constitutes one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects, mental retardation and neurodevelopmental disorders in exposed children. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, alcohol was the second most prevalent substance (8.3%) after tobacco (10%), being this alcohol prevalence higher among 26-44 years old pregnant women than in the 18-25 years old group (9.1 vs 6.5%) (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2017). The ethanol marker ethyl glucuronide (EtG) has proven to be a specific long-term marker of ethanol in-utero exposure in meconium; however, currently there are scarce or no data about EtG and ethyl sulfate (EtS) in umbilical cord and placenta. These tissues are alternative matrices to meconium that offer critical advantages; as they are always available at birth, their collection is noninvasive and easy, and they are considered waste products. We developed a method for the determination of EtG and EtS in 0.1 g of umbilical cord and placenta, achieving a limit of quantification of 5 ng/g in umbilical cord and 10 ng/g in placenta. Tissues were homogenized in methanol and the analytes of interest were extracted using weak anion exchange solid phase extraction and analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MSMS), in negative mode, monitoring 2 transitions per analyte. The methods were applied to 59 authentic umbilical cord and placenta samples from newborns whose meconium samples were positive for EtG (EtG > 5 ng/g). EtG and/or EtS were detected in 25 umbilical cord samples with ranges of 4.4-528.5 ng/g and 4.3-39 ng/g, respectively, and in 8 placenta samples with ranges of 26.5-266.5 and 11-24.3 ng/g, respectively. EtG and EtS showed a homogenous distribution throughout umbilical cord tissue (n=5). To date, this is the first method to investigate both minor metabolites of ethanol in term umbilical cord and placenta samples for prenatal ethanol exposure.

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