National Water Quality Laboratory

Wednesday May 22, 2019

Techniques and Methods 5-B3

Determination of Semivolatile Organic Compounds and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Solids by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry

Steven D. Zaugg, Mark R. Burkhardt, Teresa L. Burbank, Mary C. Olson, Jana L. Iverson, and Michael P. Schroeder

April 2006

A method for the determination of 38 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and semivolatile organic compounds in solid samples is described. Samples are extracted using a pressurized solvent extraction system. The compounds of interest are extracted from the solid sample twice at 13,800 kilopascals; first at 120 degrees Celsius using a water/isopropyl alcohol mixture (50:50, volume-to-volume ratio), and then the sample is extracted at 200 degrees Celsius using a water/isopropyl alcohol mixture (80:20, volume-to-volume ratio). The compounds are isolated using disposable solid-phase extraction (SPE) cartridges containing divinylbenzene-vinylpyrrolidone copolymer resin. The cartridges are dried with nitrogen gas, and then sorbed compounds are eluted from the SPE material using a dichloromethane/diethyl ether mixture (80:20, volume-to-volume ratio) and passed through a sodium sulfate/Florisil SPE cartridge to remove residual water and to further clean up the extract. The concentrated extract is solvent exchanged into ethyl acetate and the solvent volume reduced to 0.5 milliliter. Internal standard compounds are added prior to analysis by capillary-column gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

Comparisons of PAH data for 28 sediment samples extracted by Soxhlet and the accelerated solvent extraction (ASE) method described in this report produced similar results. Extraction of PAH compounds from standard reference material using this method also compared favorably with Soxhlet extraction. The recoveries of PAHs less than molecular weight 202 (pyrene or fluoranthene) are higher by up to 20 percent using this ASE method, whereas the recoveries of PAHs greater than or equal to molecular weight 202 are equivalent.

This ASE method of sample extraction of solids has advantages over conventional Soxhlet extraction by increasing automation of the extraction process, reducing extraction time, and using less solvent. Extract cleanup also is greatly simplified because SPE replaces commonly used gel permeation chromatography.

The performance of the method (as expressed by mean recoveries and mean precision) was determined using Ottawa sand, a commercially available topsoil, and an environmental stream sediment, fortified at 1.5 and 15 micrograms per compound. Recoveries of PAH and semivolatile compounds in Ottawa sand samples fortified at 1.5 micrograms averaged 88 percent ± 9.4 percent relative standard deviation, and calculated initial method detection limits per compound averaged 14 micrograms per kilogram, assuming a 25-gram sample size. The recovery for 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene is less than 60 percent; thus, the concentration of this compound will always be reported as estimated with the “E” remark code.

The analysis of 25 alkylated PAH homolog groups also can be determined with this method with extra data analysis and review, but because of the lack of authentic reference standard compounds, these results are considered to be semiquantitative. The PAH homolog groups are quantitated using the response factor of a parent PAH method compound, if available. Precision data for the alkylated PAH homologs detected in a marine sediment standard reference material (SRM 1944) also are presented to document and demonstrate method capability.

This report is available on the USGS Publishing Network.

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