Author(s): Bergknut M, Frech K, Andersson PL, Haglund P, Tysklind M
The aim of this study was to compare the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contents in a number of complex samples, including soil samples from industrial sites, anti-skid sand, urban dust and ash samples from municipal solid waste incinerators. The samples were characterized by routine analysis of PAHs (gas chromatography-quadrupole mass spectrometry) and gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOFMS). Classification of the samples by principal component analysis (PCA) according to their composition of PAHs revealed that samples associated with traffic and the municipal incinerator formed homogeneous clusters, while the PAH-contaminated soils clustered in separate groups. Using spectral data to resolve co-eluting chromatographic peaks, 962 peaks could be identified in the GC-TOFMS analysis of a pooled sample and 123-527 peaks in the individual samples. Many of the studied extracts included a unique set of chemicals, indicating that they had a much more diverse contamination profile than their PAH contents suggested. Compared to routine analysis, GC-TOFMS provided more detailed information about each sample and in this study a large number of alkylated PAHs were found to be associated with the corresponding unsubstituted PAHs. The possibility to filter peaks according to different criteria (e.g. to include only peaks that were detected in the analysis of another sample) was explored and used to identify unique as well as common compounds within samples. This procedure could prove to be valuable for obtaining relevant chemical data for use in conjunction with results from various biological test systems.