In this study, we compared microwave solvent extraction (MSE) to conventional methods for extracting organic contaminants from marine sediments and tissues with high and varying moisture content. The organic contaminants measured were polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners, chlorinated pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Initial experiments were conducted on dry standard reference materials (SRMs) and field collected marine sediments. Moisture content in samples greatly influenced the recovery of the analytes of interest. When wet sediments were included in a sample batch, low recoveries were often encountered in other samples in the batch, including the dry SRM. Experiments were conducted to test the effect of standardizing the moisture content in all samples in a batch prior to extraction. SRM1941a (marine sediment). SRM1974a (mussel tissue), as well as QA96SED6 (marine sediment), and QA96TIS7 (marine tissue), both from 1996 NIST Intercalibration Exercise were extracted using microwave and conventional methods. Moisture levels were adjusted in SRMs to match those of marine sediment and tissue samples before microwave extraction. The results demonstrated that it is crucial to standardize the moisture content in all samples, including dry reference material to ensure good recovery of organic contaminants. MSE yielded equivalent or superior recoveries compared to conventional methods for the majority of the compounds evaluated. The advantages of MSE over conventional methods are reduced solvent usage, higher sample throughput and the elimination of halogenated solvent usage.
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