Advances in the gas chromatographic determination of persistent organic pollutants in the aquatic environment

S.P.J. van Leeuwen, J. de Boer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Environmental chemists have been challenged for over 30 years to analyse complex mixtures of halogenated organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated alkanes (PCAs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated furans (PCDD/Fs). Gas chromatography (GC) often proved to be the method of choice because of its high resolution. The recent developments in the field of comprehensive two-dimensional GC (GC × GC) show that this technique can provide much more information than conventional (single-column) GC. Large volume injection (e.g. by programmed temperature vaporiser, or on-column injection) can be employed for the injection of tens of microliters of sample extract, in that way substantially improving the detection limits. Electron-capture detection (ECD) is a sensitive detection method but unambiguous identification is not possible and misidentification easily occurs. Mass spectrometric (MS) detection substantially improves the identification and the better the resolution (as with MS/MS, time-of-flight (TOF) MS and high-resolution (HR)MS), the lower the chances of misidentification are. Unfortunately, this comes only with substantially higher investments and maintenance costs. Co-extracted lipids, sulphur and other interferences can disturb the GC separation and detection leading to unreliable results. Extraction, and more so, sample clean-up and fractionation, are crucial steps prior to the GC analysis of these pollutants. Recent developments in sample extraction and clean-up show that selective pressurised liquid extraction (PLE) is an effective and efficient extraction and clean-up technique that enables processing of multiple samples in less than 1 h. Quality assurance tools such as interlaboratory studies and reference materials are very well established for PCDD/Fs and PCBs but the improvement of that infrastructure is needed for brominated flame retardants, PCAs and toxaphene. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-182
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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