Organic Contaminants

Monitoring organic contaminants

From sample extraction to data analysis, we offer complete analysis capabilities for organic contaminants including both volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs). Learn how our comprehensive solutions can help environmental labs overcome their analytical challenges.

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Volatile and semi-volatile organic compound workflows

Analytical testing laboratories face many challenges when analyzing VOCs and SVOCs. Thermo Scientific products can help you meet all US EPA regulatory criteria and those of other regulatory bodies while maintaining sample throughput. Our innovative instruments and workflows help ensure that samples are analyzed quickly and that results are not delayed by instrument downtime, repeated analyses, or inaccurate results.

Consolidated analysis of soil contaminants – Four-fold increase in sample throughput with HRAM GC-MS

Learn about a consolidated approach for the rapid and cost-effective analysis of 16 US EPA PAHs, seven marker PCBs, three oxyPAHs, ten methylPAHs, and nine NSO-PAHs in soil samples using the high resolution, accurate mass Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Exploris GC mass spectrometer. This method uses a modified QuEChERS sample extraction and clean up method and a Thermo Scientific TriPlus RSH autosampler to provide an ideal solution for analytical testing laboratories looking to improve productivity and deliver confident results.

Graph showing individual MDLs (as detectable fg on column) for 45 native PCB, PAH, methyl PAH, oxyPAH, and NSO-PAHs calculated from n=18 replicate injections of the lowest serially diluted matrix-matched standards. *1,8-Dimethyl naphthalene 1.0 pg OC had a peak area % RSD >15% so the nearest standard 2.5 pg OC was used giving a higher MDL; however, by using a lower amount OC ~1.5 pg the true MDL value would be expected to be lower.

Robust analysis of PAHs and PCBs in soil with over 500 repeat injections using the Orbitrap Exploris GC mass spectrometer

Access a simplified analytical method using a large number of consecutive injections of soil samples to meet the demands of routine trace analysis in soil samples with high resolution accurate mass GC-MS.

This technical note describes the analysis of PAH and PCBs in complex soil matrices using the Thermo Scientific Orbitrap Exploris GC mass spectrometer. The superior sensitivity and method consolidation capabilities of this GC-MS system make it ideal for routine environmental screening.

This method delivers the consistent, uninterrupted performance needed in fast-paced routine laboratories looking to increase productivity while reducing instrument downtime and cost per sample.

(A) Repeatability %RSD of absolute peak area response (no internal standard correction), for example PAHs and PCBs from n=500 injections of a QuEChERS soil extract post-spiked at 10 pg/μL (ppb); (B) Absolute peak area %RSDs (no internal standard adjustment) for all PAHs and PCBs from n=500 injections of a QuEChERS soil extract as described in part (A)

Simultaneous routine GC-MS analysis of PCBs, PAHs, and their derivatives in soil using modified QuEChERS methodology

Learn how methods for the rapid analysis of sixteen US EPA PAHs, seven marker PCBs, three oxyPAHs, ten methylPAHs, and nine NSO-PAHs can be consolidated in a single analysis for soil samples. This consolidated method uses modified QuEChERS method for sample extraction and clean up, gas chromatography for separation of target compounds, and single quadrupole mass spectrometer (Thermo Scientific ISQ 7000 GC-MS system), operated in electron ionization (EI) mode for detection. As demonstrated in this study, the method is quick, easy, effective, rugged, and safe for soil testing.

Chromatogram showing overlaid native PAHs and PCBs t-SIM XICs for a 50 pg/µL (50 pg on column (OC) solvent standard in n-hexane with excellent chromatographic peak shapes for all compounds in under 20 minutes run time. C13-labeled internal standards were not displayed to show native peak shapes clearly. (A) Peak shape for nitrogen containing polyaromatic heterocycle quinoline with EP peak asymmetry of 1.0; (B) Resolution of critical components phenanthrene and anthracene with EP resolution of 1.5; (C) Resolution of critical components benzo(a) anthracene and chrysene with EP resolution of 1.3; (D) Resolution of critical components benzo[b]fluoranthene and benzo[k]fluoranthene with EP resolution of 1.0.

Fast, robust method for routine determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in drinking water by single quadrupole GC-MS

Discover a fast and robust method for the determination of 41 PAHs in drinking water using the Thermo Scientific ISQ 7000 single quadrupole GC-MS system. Chromatographic separation was performed using the TraceGOLD TG-PAH capillary column and a Thermo Scientific AI/AS 1310 autosampler was used for sample introduction, offering the precision and ruggedness required for an easy-to-use and cost-effective workflow for routine laboratory work. The results demonstrate that this method offers excellent analytical performance for routine PAHs analysis in drinking water samples.

Chromatographic separation for 41 investigated PAHs in a solvent standard at 20–200 ng/mL acquired in full scan (m/z 90–350). The TraceGOLD TG-PAH capillary column high selectivity and extended temperature range up to 350 °C allowed for the chromatographic separation of the investigated PAHs in less than 30 minutes. Chromatographic resolution (Rs) was ≥1.0 for all the target compounds with the exception of triphenylene/chrysene (RT=13.93/13.97 min, respectively) and dibenz[a,h]acridine/dibenz[a,j]anthracene (RT=20.15/20.26 min, respectively). Co-elution between cyclopenta[cd]pyrene and triphenylene was detected at RT=13.93 minutes. The extended column temperature range allowed for good peak shape for dibenzo[a,e]pyrene, dibenzo[a,h]pyrene and dibenzo[a,i]pyrene with peak asymmetries <1.3.

Determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in drinking water at ppt levels by Solid Phase Micro Extraction Arrow coupled with GC-MS

Learn about a method for the determination of the 16 US EPA-regulated PAHs in drinking water using the Thermo Scientific ISQ Series single quadrupole GC-MS system coupled to a Thermo Scientific TriPlus RSH autosampler equipped with the SPME Arrow technology. This method enables the detection of trace-level PAHs down to 1 ng/L with minimal sample preparation. It demonstrates outstanding compound linearity, excellent peak area repeatability and lower %RSD values than the classic SPME fiber. The larger sorption surface provided by the SPME Arrow fiber also provides a significant increase in the extraction efficiency for volatile and polar compounds.

Optimized GC-MS solution for semivolatiles (SVOC) analysis in environmental samples in compliance with the US EPA Method 8270D

The method features maximum instrument uptime and extended dynamic range detection using the Thermo Scientific ISQ 7000 single quadrupole GC-MS system to meet the requirements of US EPA Method 8270D. Thermo Scientific NeverVent technology, available on the ISQ 7000 GC-MS system, speeds up routine maintenance operations, saving the time typically required to vent the MS system and re-establish the vacuum conditions.

This study included detection of 76 compounds. Each fulfilled the EPA 8270D requirements in terms of minimum response factors and linearity. Chromeleon CDS software, with the Environmental Reporting package, provided compliance with EPA 8270D Method requirements offering a full complement of standard reports.

A consolidated method for the analysis of VOCs in soil by HS-GC-MS in analytical testing laboratories – US EPA Method 5021, Chinese standard methods HJ642-2013 and HJ736-2015

Laboratories analyzing VOCs in environmental samples can consolidate three methods into one, increasing throughput three-fold by running one 30-minute method instead of two methods, each >40 minutes. The new method significantly reduces time from sampling to reporting and the need for multiple GC-MS systems and analysts, decreasing the cost per sample. This HS-GC-MS method allows for simultaneous determination of 61 VOCs in <30 minutes per sample, using the Thermo Scientific TriPlus 500 HS with Thermo Scientific ISQ 7000 single quadrupole GC-MS. The consistent retention times, Gaussian chromatographic peak shape, and repeatable peak areas produced via this method are essential for reliable identification and quantitation.

Analysis of VOCs according to EPA Method 8260

Learn about an analytical method that meets the requirements outlined in U. EPA Method 8260D and utilizes US EPA Methods 5030 and 5035, to achieve <20% relative standard deviation (RSD), minimum response factor (RF), and MDLs for a wide range of target compounds. The method produces consistent, reproducible results, with a continuing calibration verification (CCV) analyzed every 12 hours while samples are analyzed. The following evaluation describes the use of the ISQ 7000 GC-MS system coupled to the Atomx XYZ purge and trap (P&T) system and the Thermo Scientific Chromeleon Chromatography Data System (CDS). The experiments performed clearly demonstrate the suitability of this analytical configuration for the analysis of VOCs in various environmental samples in accordance with EPA Method 8260.

Analysis of VOCs according to EPA Method 8260
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Repeatability (absolute peak area) of a 20 ppb water standard assessed over n=240 consecutive injections over three days of analysis.

An automated approach for the determination of gasoline range organics (GRO) in water by gas chromatography coupled with static headspace sampling

In this application note, headspace sampling was coupled with gas chromatography-FID detection to assess method sensitivity, precision, robustness, and linearity for quantitative assessment of GRO in water.

The data demonstrate that the TriPlus 500 gas chromatography headspace autosampler provides a reliable analytical tool, allowing environmental laboratories to produce consistent results with outstanding analytical performance for GRO quantitative analysis in water samples.

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Robust and cost-effective analysis of TPH in water and soil using GC-FID

Access a simple, cost-effective, high-throughput analytical solution for routine determination of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs) in water and soil samples. Repeatability and robustness of TPH responses in matrix were assessed by carrying out repeated injections (n=99) of a certified reference soil, analyzed over five batches, which included full diesel/motor oil composite calibration, with check standards (mid-level) inter-dispersed during and at the end of the sequence.

Peak area repeatability and robustness in matrix. (A) Repeatability and robustness illustrated with five batches over five consecutive working days of TPH soil analysis, ~20 injections per batch of the certified reference soil. Each batch included full calibration, interspersed with a check mid-level standard. (B) Overlaid GC-FID chromatograms for a certified reference soil sample in batch 2 (n=20).

Completely cryogen-free monitoring of ozone precursors, air toxics, and oxygenated volatile organic compounds in ambient air in a single run

This study demonstrates the quantitative analysis of a challenging 117-compound list, without the use of liquid nitrogen or other cryogen, and with cycle times of less than 60 minutes per sample. The analytical system comprises a canister autosampler, water removal device, thermal desorber, and dual-column GC-MS/FID configured for heart-cut 2D-GC separation. Together, these components enable monitoring of samples at 100% relative humidity, offer optimum responses for the three C2 and two C3 hydrocarbon isomers using FID and provide confident compound identification and high sensitivity for the remaining compounds monitored using mass spectrometry.

In-Tube Extraction Dynamic Headspace (ITEX-DHS) sampling technique coupled to GC-MS for sensitive determination of odorants in water

This workflow offers a viable alternatively to SPME and P&T for the direct analysis of trace-level odorants in water. It combines the InTube Extraction Dynamic Headspace (ITEX-DHS) technique and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Through dynamic headspace enrichment achieved using the ITEX technique, the target analytes isoborneol (IB), 2-methyl-isoborneol (2-MIB), 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (2,4,6-TCA), and geosmin were extracted and pre-concentrated to reach sub-ppt level limits of detection (LOD). The sensitivity obtained exceeds the requirement of 10 ng/L of the international standards ISO 17943 and GB 5749, maintaining a limited cycle time of 12 min.

The TriPlus RSH autosampler with the ITEX-DHS tool allows for a fully automated sampling procedure with no sample pre-treatment required, reducing the overall analysis time and minimizing manual operations. Chromeleon CDS ensures full control of all the ITEX parameters as well as of the GC-MS system and streamlines the entire workflow using simplified reprocessing and reporting features.

Robust analysis of taste and odor compounds in drinking water using purge and trap and single quadrupole GC-MS

Learn about a proven method for the analysis of geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (2-MIB) in drinking water, which meets the drinking water linearity, MDLs, accuracy, precision, and robustness suitability requirements of Standard Method 6040C.

In addition to successfully demonstrating the method, this study included an extended run of samples to demonstrate the robustness of the instrumentation used. A continuing calibration check was run regularly to ensure that the instrument response did not change significantly from the initial calibration.

What technologies are available for organic contaminant analysis?

Organic contaminants are diverse in structure and properties, making them harder to analyze than the relatively limited range of inorganic contaminants, so several analytical techniques are used. Different types of sample preparation and instrumentation can be used depending on sample volatility and extraction matrices.

Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a range of gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) workflow solutions for organic contaminant analysis as well as liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) workflows for the analysis of less heat-stable organic contaminants.

From sample extraction to data analysis, explore our complete workflow solutions for organic contaminant analysis in the table below.

  Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)

Dispersive SPE (QuEChERS)



Automated Accelerated Solvent Extraction



Automated Solid Phase Extraction



GC columns & consumables



HPLC columns & consumables



IC columns & consumables









IC and IC-MS









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Data analysis and analysis software for environmental contaminant testing

Providing timely reportable results requires access to a truly connected method setup and data processing ecosystem. Regardless of application, our data management and analysis solutions make your screening, quantitation, and unknown identification challenges easier.

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Solutions for environmental contaminants by sample matrix

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