Determination of particulate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry after molecularly imprinted polymer extraction

Mara Russo , Maria Chiara Pietrogrande , Giorgia Demaria


Received April 27, 2021,Revised , Accepted November 15, 2021, Available online February 25, 2022

Volume 35,2023,Pages 644-654

A solid phase extraction procedure (SPE) is described for the quantitative analysis of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in atmospheric particulate matter (PM), as ubiquitous environmental pollutants routinely measured in air quality monitoring. A SPE cartridge was used based on a molecular imprinted polymer (MIP-SPE) properly tailored for selective retention of PAHs with 4 and more benzene fused rings. The performance of the clean-up procedure was evaluated with the specific concern of selective purification towards saturated hydrocarbons, which are the PM components mostly interfering GC analysis of target PAHs. Under optimized operative conditions, the MIP-SPE provided analyte recovery close to 95% for heavier PAHs, from benzo(α)pyrene to benzo(ghi)perylene, and close to 90% for four benzene rings PAHs, with good reproducibility (RSDs: 2.5%-5.9%). Otherwise, C17-C32 n-alkanes were nearly completely removed. The proposed method was critically compared with Solid Phase Micro Extraction (SPME) using a polyacrylate fiber. Both methods were successfully applied to the analysis of ambient PM2.5 samples collected at an urban polluted site. Between the two procedures, the MIP-SPE provided the highest recovery (R% ≥ 93%) for PAHs with 5 and more benzene rings, but lower for lighter PAHs. In contrast, SPME showed a mean acceptable R% value (∼ 80%) for all the investigated PAHs, except for the heaviest PAHs in the most polluted samples (R%: 110%-138%), suggesting an incomplete purification from the interfering n-hydrocarbons.

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