Semipermeable membrane devices as integrative tools for monitoring nonpolar aromatic compounds in air

University dissertation from Umeå : Kemi

Abstract: Air pollutants pose a high risk for humans, and the environment, and this pollution is one of the major environmental problems facing modern society. Active air sampling is the technique that has been traditionally used to monitor nonpolar aromatic air pollutants. However, active high volume samplers (HiVols) require a power supply, maintenance and specialist operators, and the equipment is often expensive. Thus, there is a need to develop new, less complicated sampling techniques that can increase the monitoring frequency, the geographical distribution of the measurements, and the number of sites used in air monitoring programs. In the work underlying this thesis, the use of semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) as tools for monitoring gas phase concentrations of nonpolar aromatic compound was evaluated using the compound classes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated PAHs (alkyl-PAHs) and nitrated PAHs (nitro-PAHs) as test compounds.High wind-speeds increased the uptake and release in SPMDs of PAHs and PCBs with log KOA values > 7.9, demonstrating that the uptake of most nonpolar aromatic compounds is controlled by the boundary layer at the membrane-air interface. The use of a metal umbrella to shelter the SPMDs decreased the uptake of PAHs and PCBs by 38 and 55 percent, respectively, at high wind/turbulence, and thus reduced the wind effect. Further, the use of performance reference compounds (PRCs) to assess the site effect of wind on the uptake in SPMDs reduced the between-site differences to less than 50 percent from as much as three times differences in uptake of PCBs and PAHs. However, analytical interferences reduced the precision of some PRCs, showing the importance of using robust analytical quality control.SPMDs were shown to be efficient samplers of gas phase nonpolar aromatic compounds, and were able to determine local, continental and indoor spatial distributions of PAHs, alkyl- PAHs and nitro-PAHs. In addition, the use of the SPMDs, which do not require electricity, made sampling possible at remote/rural areas where the infrastructure was limited. SPMDs were also used to determine the source of PAH pollution, and different approaches were discussed. Finally, SPMDs were used to estimate the importance of the gas phase exposure route to the uptake of PAHs in plants. The results demonstrate that SPMDs have several advantages compared with HiVols, including integrative capacity over long times, reduced costs, and no need of special operators, maintenance or power supply for sampling. However, calibration data of SPMDs in air are limited, and spatial differences are often only semi-quantitatively determined by comparing amounts and profiles in the SPMDs, which have limited their use in air monitoring programs. In future work, it is therefore important that SPMDs are properly sheltered, PRCs are used in the sampling protocols, and that calibrated sampling rate data, or the SPMD-air partition data, of specific compounds are further developed to make determination of time weighted average (TWA) concentrations possible.