air pollution analysisI was reading a news story on a new study that found most Chinese cities are failing to meet minimum air quality standards when I realized it has been a very long time since I have featured a chromatography application for the analysis of air. Hence, I am very pleased to present a sample preparation method that speeds the analysis of air quality by gas chromatography!

A bit about the pollutants that are being monitored. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are two classes of persistent organic pollutants that are categorized as carcinogens, mutagens, and/or teratogens which are regulated by many regulatory agencies around the the world. For example, the U.S. EPA has classified PCBs as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen as these compounds have been demonstrated to cause cancer in laboratory animals. By the way, the production of PCBs was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001 but since PCBs are highly persistent in the environment and regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. EPA, have established methods for monitoring their presence in environmental matrices.

During the monitoring process, the PCBs and PAHs are trapped onto air sampling cartridges, eluted from filters using organic solvents and then analyzed using gas chromatography. The bottleneck in the monitoring process is the extraction of these pollutants from the air sampling cartridges.

Our Whitepaper 71064, Accelerated Solvent Extraction for Monitoring Persistent Organic Pollutants in Ambient Air, (downloadable PDF) describes how our Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE) system (either the Thermo Scientific Dionex ASE 150 or Dionex ASE 350 system can be used) is used for the extraction of PAHs and PCBs from air sampling cartridges and provides significantly higher time and solvent savings simultaneously as illustrated in the table below.

PAHs extraction followed by GC-MS



Total Solvent Consumption

1,200-2,000 mL

550 mL

Total Time Used

20-32 hr

3 hr

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PCBs extraction followed by GC-ECD



Total Solvent Consumption

350 mL

30 mL

Total Time Used

12-14 hr

48 min

Additional Resources

  • Our recently released Chromatography Solution Online Center features many useful and complimentary chromatography tools which can help speed up your analysis. The site is updated on a monthly basis; therefore, do check out the Archives section to see what was previously featured.

If you are looking to upgrade your existing Accelerated Solvent Extractor system (link to promotion), we are offering 15% off a purchase of a newThermo Scientific Dionex ASE 350 Accelerated Solvent Extractor system and up to 50% off a set of new stainless steel extraction cells.

If you have questions on this application or the instrument, do enter them in the Comments box below; our experts look forward to hearing from you.