A sensitive method for the quantification of acrolein and other volatile carbonyls in ambient air

Vincent Y. Seaman, M. Judith Charles, Thomas M. Cahill

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52 Scopus citations


Acrolein, an unsaturated aldehyde found in both indoor and outdoor air, is considered one of the greatest non-cancer health risks of all organic air pollutants. Current methods for determining acrolein often employ sorbent-filled cartridges containing a carbonyl derivatizing agent (e.g., dinitrophenylhydrazine). These methods are of limited use for unsaturated compounds due to the formation of unstable derivatives, coelution of similar compounds, long sample collection times, and ozone interferences that result in poor sensitivity, selectivity, and reproducibility. The goal of this research was to develop an analytical method for determining ppt concentrations of acrolein and other carbonyls in air with short sampling times (10 min). The method uses a mist chamber to collect carbonyls by forming water-soluble carbonyl-bisulfite adducts. The carbonyls are then liberated from the bisulfite, derivatized, and quantified by gas chromatography/electron capture negative ionization mass spectrometry. The method was applied to determine atmospheric acrolein concentrations at three sites in northern California reflecting hemispheric background concentrations, biogenic-dominated regions, and urban environments. The resulting acrolein concentrations were 0.056, 0.089, and 0.29 μg/m3, respectively, which are all above the EPA Reference Concentration of 0.02 μg/m3. The minimum detection limit of 0.012 μg/m3 is below that of other published methods. Methacrolein, methyl vinyl ketone, crotonaldehyde, glyoxal, methyl glyoxal, and benzaldehyde were also quantified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2405-2412
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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