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The BP Gulf oil disaster: plant and seafood analysis for PAHs August 6, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in PAHs.

I keep hearing news reports of a frenzy of activity amongst government and academic labs to develop analyses for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plants and seafood (shellfish and fish) that might have been exposed to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico disaster. I eveb approached one group nearby after seeing a TV newscast on their potential work (and got the almost impolite brushoff of a parochial food scientist, but that is a different topic).

The lowdown is that this work can be straightforward. I worked on a project over two decades ago which looked at fish and plant samples exposed to both crude oil and crude oil mixed with a dispersant (but the actual results of those are probably confidential still and where buried a couple of years later when the Exxon Valdez accident happened). The project was completed and a report sits somewhere in the archives of several oil companies, since it was sponsored by an industry trade group.

But sample preparation can be simple. The trick is getting rid of the water that prevents good solvent extraction. Mixing with anhydrous solium sulfate until the seafood becomes dry and crumbly works well with good recovery of spiked deuterated standards.

For plants, genthe grinding interspersed with adding of anhydrous solium sulfate works, too. You get a crumbly, stringy paste. Extraction of this or the fish/ shellfish samples can be done with an alkane, isooctane or n-hexane work OK. Toluene is better, and dichloromethane was the best solvent tried (out of eight to ten). Soxhlet extraction is good (I did not have accelerated solvent extraction since it was a decade too early for that).

The analytical finish could be either LC with fluorescence detection or GC (or LC) with MS detection. Finis and easy.



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