Qualitative mass spectrometric analysis of the volatile fraction of creosote-treated railway wood sleepers by using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography

Eduardo Mateus, Marco Gomes da Silva, Alexandra Ribeiro, Philip Marriott

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The volatile composition of 20-year-old out-of-service creosote-treated railway wood sleepers was studied. The emitted volatile fraction was collected by means of dynamic purge-and-trap concentration at ambient temperature, and analyzed by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC x GC) hyphenated with mass spectrometric detection systems, using quadrupole (GC x GC/qMS) and time-of-flight (GC x GC/ToF-MS) mass analyzers and selective nitrogen-phosphorus detection (GC x GC-NPD). The analysis of mass spectrometry data and GC x GC retention time allowed the tentative identification of about 300 compounds based on spectrometric data and positioning of each compound in the GC x GC plot. Major important headspace components are polyaromatic hydrocarbons, phenols and benzene derivatives, hydrocarbons and heterocyclic compounds containing nitrogen, sulphur or oxygen atoms. Many of the reported compounds are listed as belonging to toxicological substance classes which have been related to harmful health effects. GC x GC provides greater speciation and evidence of composition heterogenicity of the sample than one-dimensional GC analysis, thus allowing to better demonstrate its potential toxicity. Data obtained by specific detection systems for N-heterocycles assisted mass data interpretation assignments. The enhanced separation power obtained after GC x GC compared to one-dimensional gas chromatography (1D-GC) together with spectral deconvolution and correlation with physical-chemical data, allowed the identification of complex isomer clusters, as demonstrated for alkylquinolines, and applied also to alkylphenols, alkylbenzenes and alkylnaphthalenes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215 - 222
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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