Polychlorinated biphenyls are a class of organic compounds known for their high level of toxicity and classified as persistent organic pollutants. Thanks to their useful characteristics such as non-flammability, heat resistance, insulation and chemical stability, in the past they were extensively used as coolants and dielectric fluids, stabilizing additives in PVC and plastic products, reactive flame retardants, sealants, paints, etc.
The toxicity associated to PCBs was recognized and known very soon, since before their first commercial production in 1970s. Nevertheless, PCB production was banned by the United States Congress only in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.
The EPA method 8082 is used to determine the concentration of PCBs in extracts from solid and aqueous matrices. The analytical protocol is based on conventional gas chromatography coupled to electron capture detection technique. This method generally requires 20-30 minutes for the chromatographic separation of these compounds. Fast gas chromatography, typically involving 100 μm i.d. and 10 m columns, represents a powerful alternative to conventional GC, allowing to achieve equivalent resolution in significantly shorter analysis time.
In this application, fast GC is applied to the analysis of PCBs. The technique is implemented on the GenTech Master GC, which operates with short narrow bore columns and fast ECD to guarantee high resolution and sensitivity. The data obtained confirm the suitability of the technique for the routine analysis of this kind of compounds.