, Volume 386, Issue 4, pp 859-881
Date: 21 Sep 2006

Analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in environmental samples: a critical review of gas chromatographic (GC) methods

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are frequently measured in the atmosphere for air quality assessment, in biological tissues for health-effects monitoring, in sediments and mollusks for environmental monitoring, and in foodstuffs for safety reasons. In contemporary analysis of these complex matrices, gas chromatography (GC), rather than liquid chromatography (LC), is often the preferred approach for separation, identification, and quantification of PAHs, largely because GC generally affords greater selectivity, resolution, and sensitivity than LC. This article reviews modern-day GC and state-of-the-art GC techniques used for the determination of PAHs in environmental samples. Standard test methods are discussed. GC separations of PAHs on a variety of capillary columns are examined, and the properties and uses of selected mass spectrometric (MS) techniques are presented. PAH literature on GC with MS techniques, including chemical ionization, ion-trap MS, time-of-flight MS (TOF-MS), and isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), is reviewed. Enhancements to GC, for example large-volume injection, thermal desorption, fast GC, and coupling of GC to LC, are also discussed with regard to the determination of PAHs in an effort to demonstrate the vigor and robustness GC continues to achieve in the analytical sciences.