Inter-laboratory comparison is widely used to ensure quality control among laboratories. In in vitro toxicology studies for tobacco harm reduction (THR), exposure system performance and laboratory proficiency along with product smoke and aerosol stream are tested for variability to assess accuracy. Here we aim to test a novel inter-laboratory setup created in a new collaborative research group using identical and small footprint systems- in order to minimize variability factors and increase reproducibility.
Seven independent laboratories from different geographical areas tested the aerosol and smoke stream and exposure system performance (LM1 and LM4E) using Cambridge Filter Pad (CFP) trapping techniques. We tested 1R6F reference cigarettes, two electronic cigarettes (Vype e-Pen and Vype e-Stick Maxx), and two tobacco heating products (IQOS and Glo™) under the appropriate ISO and/or HCI regimes. Nicotine quantification was performed by GC-FID at the laboratory of the leading center. The performance of participant laboratories was assessed by z-score values obtained from results either in relation to the mean and standard deviation of total participants or in relation to the reference leading center. Z-Scores were satisfactory when |z| ≤ 2, questionable when 2 < |z| < 3 and, unsatisfactory when |z| ≥ 3. In the first evaluation, for all the tested devices, Z- scores values generated by dosimetry data ranged from -2 to +2. However, high intra-laboratory variability (RSD> 10%) was observed for almost all laboratories. In the second, data showed borderline and unsatisfactory exposure performances versus LAB-A. Particularly, Z-scores ≥ 3 were observed once for LAB-B (e-Stick exposure) and LAB-G (e-Pen exposure), twice for LAB-C (1R6F-ISO and e-Stick exposures) and LAB-E (e-Pen and e-Stick exposures), and three times for LAB-F (1R6F-HCI, e-Pen, and Glo exposures).
This study demonstrates that nicotine dosimetry is a fundamental method for quality assurance of smoke/vapor run exposure in the early stage of an interlaboratory study, allowing the identification and possibly the resolution of gaps. Extended practice sessions on exposure runs and several rounds of nicotine dosimetry testing should be planned to keep in check overall equipment and operator performance.