The technique of thermal desorption (TD)-GC/MS was evaluated for measuring airborne, 4-6 ring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) collected onto quartz filters. TD provides a more readily automated and sensitive alternative to traditional solvent extraction, decreasing the time/cost of analysis and reducing the risk of analyte loss or sample contamination. The developed method was successfully applied to the analysis of PAH standard solutions loaded on sorbent tubes packed with quartz wool and the graphitized carbon black sorbent Carbograph2. The optimized method showed high desorption efficiency over the whole range of target PAHs with good precision, linearity and sensitivity. The proposed method was verified on an urban dust Standard Reference Material (SRM 1649a); the experimentally determined concentrations agreed with the certified ranges (95% confidence limit) for all target compounds except benzo[a]anthracene, which fell just outside the narrow certified range. The desorption efficiency and the reproducibility of the method was evaluated by analysing pieces of real sample filters sampled from urban air for a period of 24 h. The results confirmed the homogeneity of the filter and showed high recovery efficiencies for all target PAHs.
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