Journal of chromatography. A

Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method for characterization of monoaromatic nitro-compounds in atmospheric particulate matter.

PMID 23122275


Nitrogen-containing organic compounds in the atmosphere have drawn attention owing to their impact on aerosol chemistry and physics and their potential adverse effects on the biosphere. Among them, nitrocatechols and their homologs have recently been associated with biomass burning. In the present study, nitrocatechols, nitrophenols, nitroguaiacols and nitrosalicylic acids (NSAs) were simultaneously quantified for the first time by using a new analytical method based on liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry, which was systematically optimized and validated. Several analyte specific issues regarding the sample preparation and chromatographic analysis were addressed in order to ensure method sensitivity, precision, and accuracy. Sample matrix effects were thoroughly investigated in order to ensure method specificity. The method was found to be sensitive with limits of detection ranging from 0.1 to 1.0 μg L(-1), and with accuracy generally between 90 and 104%. The relative standard deviations for repeatability and intermediate precision were better than 4% and 9%, respectively. The method was applied to the analysis of winter and summer PM(10) samples from the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Aerosol concentrations as high as 152 and 134 ng m(-3) were obtained for the major aerosol nitro-aromatics: 4-nitrocatechol (4NC) and methyl-nitrocatechols (MNCs), respectively. Up to 500-times higher concentrations of 4NC and MNCs were found in winter compared to summer aerosols. The correlation analysis for winter samples showed that 4NC, MNCs, and NSAs are strongly inter-correlated (R(2)=0.84-0.96). Significant correlations between these analytes and anhydrosugars support their proposed origin from biomass burning. The studied nitro-aromatics were found to constitute a non-negligible fraction (around 1%) of the organic carbon.

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