Optimisation of pre-treatment and ionisation for GC/MS analysis for the determination of chlorinated PAHs in atmospheric particulate samples

Chlorinated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (ClPAHs) have been discovered to represent ubiquitous environmental pollutants in the last decade. In the present study, sample pre-treatment and ionisation conditions associated with the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis of ClPAHs were evaluated. The optimal pre-treatment of ambient air particulate samples was achieved using fractionation over silica gel with 10% dichloromethane in n-hexane as the eluent. The optimised condition of GC/MS with electron impact ionisation permitted analysis of all target ClPAHs. Not all target ClPAHs were detected using GC/MS with negative chemical ionisation, although this technique exhibited greater sensitivity for several of the compounds compared to electron impact ionisation. The analytical method was applied to the survey of ClPAHs in atmospheric particulate matter obtained close to an industrial site and in a standard sample of tunnel dust. Fourteen and eighteen species of ClPAHs were detected in the industrial air samples and tunnel dust, respectively, confirming the capability of the method. The compositions of ClPAHs were significantly different between air samples and tunnel dust. It suggests that alternative emission sources rather than vehicle exhaust could play a significant role in the air.