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Detection of semi-volatile compounds in cloud waters by GC×GC-TOF-MS. Evidence of phenols and phthalates as priority pollutants

Lebedev, A.T., Polyakova, O.V., Mazur, D.M., Artaev, V.B., Canet, I., Lallement, A., Vaïtilingom, M., Deguillaume, L., Delort, A.-M.
Environmental pollution 2018 v.241 pp. 616-625
United States Environmental Protection Agency, air, amides, benzyl alcohol, diethyl phthalate, droplets, furans, ketones, organic matter, oxidation, p-nitrophenol, phenol, pollutants, pyridines, summer, winter, France
Although organic species are transported and efficiently transformed in clouds, more than 60% of this organic matter remains unspeciated. Using GCxGC-HRMS technique we were able to detect and identify over 100 semi-volatile compounds in 3 cloud samples collected at the PUY station (puy de Dôme mountain, France) while they were present at low concentrations in a very small sample volume (<25 mL of cloud water). The vast majority (∼90%) of the detected compounds was oxygenated, while the absence of halogenated organic compounds should be specially mentioned. This could reflect both the oxidation processes in the atmosphere (gas and water phase) but also the need of the compounds to be soluble enough to be transferred and dissolved in the cloud droplets. Furans, esters, ketones, amides and pyridines represent the major classes of compounds demonstrating a large variety of potential pollutants. Beside these compounds, priority pollutants from the US EPA list were identified and quantified. We found phenols (phenol, benzyl alcohol, p-cresole, 4-ethylphenol, 3,4-dimethylphenol, 4-nitrophenol) and dialkylphthalates (dimethylphthalate, diethylphthalate, di-n-butylphthalate, bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate, butylbenzylphthalate, di-n-octyl phthalate). In general, the concentrations of phthalates (from 0.09 to 52 μg L−1) were much higher than those of phenols (from 0.03 to 0.74 μg L−1). To our knowledge phthalates in clouds are described here for the first time. We investigated the variability of phenols and phthalates concentrations with cloud air mass origins (marine vs continental) and seasons (winter vs summer). Although both factors seem to have an influence, it is difficult to deduce general trends; further work should be conducted on large series of cloud samples collected in different geographic areas and at different seasons.