air monitoring gc-msIn my very first blog post, my focus is on how functional enhancements in new or updated instrumentation can produce more sensitive measurement of targeted compounds and provide fresh perspective and enhanced interpretation of routinely analyzed samples in environmental analysis.

Those working in the field of environmental monitoring are aware that on February 12, 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced revisions to ambient air quality surveillance regulations (link to EPA web page) requiring enhanced monitoring of harmful pollutants, such as, ozone, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and select carbonyl compounds. Many years have passed following the introduction of new efforts by the EPA. Since that time, new gas chromatography (GC) solutions and technologies have been developed and implemented for routine sample evaluation and updates to GC instrumentation have made it possible to monitor air quality thorough the detection of the targeted pollutants.

In response to the need for enhanced monitoring capabilities and the availability of updated instrumentation the EPA engaged in an instrument vendor comparison to evaluate the current state and availability of automated GC systems for air monitoring with the following goal, “the overall objective (of the evaluation) was to challenge the candidate automated-GC units with a breadth of technical and environmental conditions in a manner sufficiently rigorous to reveal performance and capability differences between the units”.

Criteria were developed to evaluate capabilities in sample collection and analysis, data management (reduction, storage, and transfer), stability during unattended operation, and robust field-deployment environmental conditions for air monitoring.

As part of the study, one of our GC-MS systems (Thermo Scientific Trace 1300 Gas Chromatograph and Thermo Scientific ISQ mass spectrometer) coupled to the Markes Int. cryogen-free UNITY–Air Server thermal desorption technology was evaluated. A detailed ranking based on results obtained in all areas of the evaluation indicated the Thermo Scientific and the Markes Int. thermal desorption GC/MS system was amongst the top two systems of the eight systems evaluated. Our GC/MS system excelled in all five performance categories: bias, completeness of the data set, effect of temperature/relative humidity, precision and relative measurement threshold. The system has now been selected for the final field-monitoring phase of the study occurring at various air monitoring station locations early in 2015.

If you would like to read up on the results of the study, a detailed report is available as a downloadable PDF, titled, Gas Chromatograph (GC) Evaluation StudyLaboratory Evaluation Phase Report.

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If you have questions on air monitoring using GC and GC-MS technology or questions on the specific solution mentioned in this post, do enter them in the Comments box below; I look forward to hearing from you.

Dwain Cardona is currently the Vertical Market Manager for Environmental and Industrial specializing in GC and GC-MS technology for Thermo Scientific. Dwain was previously employed as a Senior Application Scientist for Thermo Scientific GC/MS. He possesses B.S. in Biology from Texas State University and his past experience includes mass spec analysis of environmental, forensic toxicology, pharmaceutical and metabolomic samples. Dwain’s current interests are centered on improving customer knowledge of Thermo Scientifics’ instrument platforms and innovative solutions in hopes to provide environmental customers with tools to overcome their analytical challenges.