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Fast and Efficient Volatiles Analysis by Purge and Trap GC/MS
C. Eric Boswell
National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory, Mixed Waste Analytical Program, 540 South Morris Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36115 (334) 270-7071

Paper published in the Proceedings of WTQA '99 (15th Annual Waste Testing & Quality Assurance Symposium), pp. 190-194.

Recent changes in environmental regulatory paradigms, such as EPA’s performance-based measurement systems (PBMS), are lowering method compliance barriers for laboratories working under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). One of the stated goals of PBMS is to educate the regulators and the regulated community on the inherent and intended flexibility of SW-846 methods. Operating under EPA’s PBMS guidelines, laboratories could employ the flexibility of SW-846 methods to simplify and improve purge and trap GC/MS volatile organic analyses (P/T GC/MS VOAs). Laboratories performing Method 8260B for P/T GC/MS VOAs have two basic GC configuration options: wide bore columns connected to the mass spectrometer through a jet separator or narrow bore columns directly interfaced to the mass spectrometer. SW-846 methodology recognizes both approaches as valid. The narrow bore column/direct interface approach is the better of the two techniques for most analyses when certain modifications are made. When newer purge and trap concentrator designs are employed and when several Method 8260B instrument parameters are modified dramatic performance benefits result. This “enhanced” narrow bore column/direct interface approach produces results such as reduced susceptibility to column contamination by high level samples, improved chromatographic behavior of early eluting and closely eluting compounds, analysis times under 20 minutes, and improved hardware ruggedness. The outcome is better quality data, higher sample throughput, and fewer instrument mechanical failures.

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