Stable carbon isotope ratio of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment: validation of isolation and stable carbon isotope analysis methods
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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous, toxic contaminants that are released to the environment from various petrogenic and pyrogenic sources. In an effort to more clearly identify and trace sources of PAHs in the environment, purification and compound specific isotope analysis methods were developed to accurately measure the stable carbon isotope ratio of individual PAHs. Development of the method included improving accuracy and precision of the isotopic measurement by producing highly pure extracts using various chromatographic techniques. The method was refined by improving compound separations using purification techniques and high resolution chromatographic columns. The purification method consists of alumina/silica gel column chromatography, gel permeation chromatography and thin layer chromatography. The mean recovery of PAHs after the purification procedure was approximately 80 %. Sample purities after purification were verified by GC/FID and full scan mass spectrometry. To better resolve peaks and provide more accurate stable carbon isotope measurements, various gas chromatographic conditions were evaluated. The precision of the method ranged between 0.08 and 0.43 . The analytical protocols were evaluated to confirm compositional and stable isotopic integrity during purification and stable isotopic analysis. To confirm the utility of the purification and isotope analysis methods, various environmental samples from marine, land and lacustrine environments were analyzed. The isolates were analyzed for the composition and the stable carbon isotope ratios of PAHs. The stable carbon isotope ratio was measured by GC/IRMS and the results, along with quantitative compound compositions, were used to characterize and identify the contaminant sources. The sources of the PAHs in the study areas were differentiated by PAH molecular ratios and confirmed by stable carbon isotope ratios. This study confirms that compound specific isotope analysis of pollutants by GC/IRMS can be used to identify PAH sources in environmental samples. The study also confirms that the purification and stable carbon isotope analysis methods that were developed can be used to accurately measure the stable carbon isotope ratios of PAHs in environmental samples for the purpose of source identification. GC/IRMS measurement of stable isotopic compositions can be an effective fingerprinting method when used in conjunction with traditional molecular composition methods.
Kim, Moon Koo (2004). Stable carbon isotope ratio of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment: validation of isolation and stable carbon isotope analysis methods. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from