An improved method for the analysis of volatile polyfluorinated alkyl substances in environmental air samples
AbstractThis article describes the optimisation and validation of an analytical method for the determination of volatile polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in environmental air samples. Airborne fluorinated telomer alcohols (FTOHs) as well as fluorinated sulfonamides and sulfonamidoethanols (FOSAs/FOSEs) were enriched on glass-fibre filters (GFFs), polyurethane foams (PUFs) and XAD-2 resin by means of high-volume air samplers. Sensitive and selective determination was performed using gas chromatography/chemical ionisation–mass spectrometry (GC/CI–MS). Five mass-labelled internal standard (IS) compounds were applied to ensure the accuracy of the analytical results. No major blank problems were encountered. Recovery experiments were performed, showing losses of the most volatile compounds during extraction and extract concentration as well as strong signal enhancement for FOSEs due to matrix effects. Breakthrough experiments revealed losses of the most volatile FTOHs during sampling, while FOSAs/FOSEs were quantitatively retained. Both analyte losses and matrix effects could be remediated by application of adequate mass-labelled IS. Method quantification limits (MQLs) of the optimised method ranged from 0.2 to 2.5 pg/m3 for individual target compounds. As part of the method validation, an interlaboratory comparison of instrumental quantification methods was conducted. The applicability of the method was demonstrated by means of environmental air samples from an urban and a rural location in Northern Germany.