Quantitative extraction of organic tracer compounds from ambient particulate matter collected on polymer substrates

Qinyue Sun, Olga A. Alexandrova, Pierre Herckes, Jonathan O. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Organic compounds in ambient particulate matter (PM) samples are used as tracers for PM source apportionment. These PM samples are collected using high volume samplers; one such sampler is an impactor in which polyurethane foam (PUF) and polypropylene foam (PPF) are used as the substrates. The polymer substrates have the advantage of limiting particle bounce artifacts during sampling; however these substrates may contain background organic additives. A protocol of two extractions with isopropanol followed by three extractions with dichloromethane (DCM) was developed for both substrate precleaning and analyte extraction. Some residual organic contaminants were present after precleaning; expressed as concentrations in a 24-h ambient PM sample, the residual amounts were 1μ g m-3 for plasticizers and antioxidants, and 10 ng m-3 for n-alkanes with carbon number lower than 26. The quantification limit for all other organic tracer compounds was ≈ 0.1 ng m-3 in a 24-h ambient PM sample. Recovery experiments were done using NIST Standard Reference Material (SRM) Urban Dust (1649a); the average recoveries for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from PPF and PUF substrates were 117 ± 8 % and 107 ± 11 %, respectively. Replicate extractions were also done using the ambient samples collected in Nogales, Arizona. The relative differences between repeat analyses were less than 10% for 47 organic tracer compounds quantified. After the first extraction of ambient samples, less than 7% of organic tracer compounds remained in the extracted substrates. This method can be used to quantify a suite of semi- and non-polar organic tracer compounds suitable for source apportionment studies in 24-h ambient PM samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1121
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 15 2009


  • Impactor
  • Particulate matter
  • Polypropylene foam
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Solvent extraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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