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Basic alumina flash chromatographic separation of bulk ortho-PCBs from on-ortho-PCBs, PBDEs, PCDFs, PCDDs, PCDTs, OCPs, and PCTs

December 31, 2006

Comprising nearly 100 congeners in environmental samples, PCBs are often still prevalent in concentrations exceeding 1 μg/g. To effectively measure PCBs, they are isolated as a group from other persistent organic pollutants using silica gel, Florisil, or alumina column chromatography for analysis by GC/MS or dual capillary column GC/ECD. When organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are also targeted, PCBs are often split into two chromatographic eluates. In contrast to the major ortho-substituted PCB congeners, much lower concentrations occur for congeners of polychlorinated- dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs), dibenzothiophenes (PCDTs), naphthalenes (PCNs), and dioxin-like non-ortho-PCBs1 . Such co-planar compounds are usually separated from the bulk PCBs using a carbon LC2 or reusable porous graphitic carbon HPLC column3 eluted forward (o-PCBs, mono-o-PCBs, then non-o-PCBs) before reversal with toluene (PCDFs and PCDDs) and additional separation with basic alumina to remove PCNs, polychlorinated diphenyl ethers (PCDEs), and residual lipid for PCDF/PCDD GC/HRMS analysis.

Recently, smaller particle-size normal phase adsorbents including active basic alumina have become available along with custom-made glass columns for use in low pressure flash chromatography. With low gas pressure (< 1-2 bar) and particles 32-63 μm, flash chromatography is a rapid, inexpensive technique with enhanced resolution compared to gravity column chromatography4 . However, few environmental researchers use the technique, but basic alumina is in the automated PowerPrep LC system for PCDFs, PCDDs, PCBs and PBDEs5 . A flash LC column is quickly dry-packed, gives improved flow performance, and has sufficient resistance to gravity flow without a shutoff valve. Contamination from lab air, dust, and sample carryover is minimized by using high purity nitrogen, much smaller eluate volumes and blown down in tubes with high purity nitrogen. The disposable adsorbent is used only once with an inert, nonleachable, reusable and cleanable glass column with glass joints and disposable glass fiber.

We evaluated basic alumina flash chromatography initially for PCBs, because Loos et al.6 had separated 13 selected o-PCB congeners from three non-o-PCBs (77, 126, and 169) and then from PCDFs and PCDDs with eluants of 150- 200 mL each from a large 25-g basic alumina (Super 1 active) column. Because the elution properties of other PCB congeners were unknown in addition to some PBDEs, PCDTs, and other compounds, we chose to evaluate basic alumina flash chromatography comprehensively. We optimized the separation of all bulk o-PCBs from all non-o-PCBs, tested other pollutants (PBDEs, PCDTs, PCDFs and PCDDs) under similar elution conditions, and finally applied the chromatographic technique to samples known or suspected to contain complex mixtures of these.

Publication Year 2006
Title Basic alumina flash chromatographic separation of bulk ortho-PCBs from on-ortho-PCBs, PBDEs, PCDFs, PCDDs, PCDTs, OCPs, and PCTs
Authors Paul H. Peterman, Carl E. Orazio, Kathy R. Echols
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Organohalogen Compounds
Index ID 70193420
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center