Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 396, Issue 3, pp 1321–1330

Determination of 43 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in air particulate matter by use of direct elution and isotope dilution gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

  • Zheng Li
  • Erin N. Pittman
  • Debra A. Trinidad
  • Lovisa C. Romanoff
  • James Mulholland
  • Andreas Sjödin
Original Paper


We are reporting a method for measuring 43 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and their methylated derivatives (Me-PAHs) in air particulate matter (PM) samples using isotope dilution gas chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry (GC/HRMS). In this method, PM samples were spiked with internal standards, loaded into solid phase extraction cartridges, and eluted by dichloromethane. The extracts were concentrated, spiked with a recovery standard, and analyzed by GC/HRMS at 10,000 resolution. Sixteen 13C-labeled PAHs and two deuterated Me-PAHs were used as internal standards to account for instrument variability and losses during sample preparation. Recovery of labeled internal standards was in the range of 86–115%. The proposed method is less time-consuming than commonly used extraction methods, such as sonication and accelerated solvent extraction (ASE), and it eliminates the need for a filtration step required after the sonication extraction method. Limits of detection ranged from 41 to 332 pg/sample for the 43 analytes. This method was used to analyze reference materials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The results were consistent with those from ASE and sonication extraction, and these results were also in good agreement with the certified or reference concentrations. The proposed method was then used to measure PAHs on PM2.5 samples collected at three sites (urban, suburban, and rural) in Atlanta, GA. The results showed distinct seasonal and spatial variation and were consistent with an earlier study measuring PM2.5 samples using an ASE method, further demonstrating the compatibility of this method and the commonly used ASE method.


A schematic illustration of the direct elution set up


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon PAH PM Method GC/MS 



Particulate matter


Particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters less than 2.5 μm


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon


Accelerated solvent extraction


Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry


Gas chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zheng Li
    • 1
  • Erin N. Pittman
    • 1
  • Debra A. Trinidad
    • 1
  • Lovisa C. Romanoff
    • 1
  • James Mulholland
    • 2
  • Andreas Sjödin
    • 1
  1. 1.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Environmental and Civil EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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