Determination of the 13C 12c ratios of individual PAH from environmental samples: can PAH sources be apportioned?

V. P. O'Malley*, Teofilo Abrajano, Jocelyne Hellou

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    171 Scopus citations


    Compound-specific carbon isotope analysis was performed on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) isolated from environmental samples. Analysis of δ 13C of individual PAH standards, including isomeric parental PAH, can be accomplished with a precision of 0.2-0.3%. In environmental samples, the precision and accuracy of similar δ 13C determinations are matrix-dependent, due to limitations imposed by coelution and the presence of an unresolved complex mixture (UCM). For samples of varying UCM the maximum deviations from the mean values ranged from 0.1 to 0.4% for well separated compounds and from 0.3 to 1.1% for high-molecular weight coeluting isomers. Allowing for these analytical limitations, isotopic characterization was performed for parental PAH compounds in primary and secondary sources and estuarine sediment materials. The potential of this technique for source apportionment of PAH was demonstrated using sediments from St John's Harbour and Conception Bay (Newfoundland). Additional experiments were conducted to evaluate whether the isotopic integrity of PAH was maintained after vaporization, photolytic decomposition and microbial degradation. To date, our results indicate that no significant isotopic fractionation accompanies these types of weathering reactions for the investigated 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-ring parental PAH.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)809-822
    Number of pages14
    JournalOrganic Geochemistry
    Issue number6-7
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


    • carbon isotope
    • compound-specific isotope analysis
    • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
    • source apportionment

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geochemistry and Petrology


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