Main content area

Recovery and reactivity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons collected on selected sorbent tubes and analyzed by thermal desorption-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Wallace, M. Ariel Geer, Pleil, Joachim D., Whitaker, Donald A., Oliver, Karen D.
Journal of chromatography 2019 v.1602 pp. 19-29
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), air, automation, benzene, breath tests, desorption, ethylbenzene, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, soot, sorbents, stainless steel, toluene, volatile organic compounds, xylene
This article describes the optimization of methodology for extending the measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to increasingly heavier polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with a detailed focus on recent sorbent tube technology. Although PAHs have lower volatility than compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, these semi-volatile compounds can be detected in air and breath samples. For this work, PAHs were captured on sorbent tubes and subsequently analyzed using automated thermal desorption gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (ATD-GC/MS). While many different sorbent tubes are commercially available, optimization for airborne PAH sampling using sorbent tubes has not been previously considered. Herein, several commercially available sorbent tubes, including Carbograph 2 TD/1TD, Tenax TA, XRO-440, and inert-coated PAH tubes are compared to determine the relative recovery for eight PAHs commonly found in the environment. Certain types of sorbent materials were found to be better suited for PAH recovery during thermal desorption, and PAH reaction products were observed on several types of sorbent tubes, including graphitized carbon black sorbents with stainless steel tube materials. As such, selection of sorbent tube media should be carefully considered prior to embarking on a PAH study.