Detection of substituted benzenes in water at the pg/ml level using solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography-ion trap mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr. 1992 Nov 20;625(2):247-55. doi: 10.1016/0021-9673(92)85209-c.


Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) is combined with gas chromatography-ion trap mass spectrometry (GC-IT-MS) for the analysis of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene isomers (BTEX) in water. SPME is a recent technique for extracting organics from an aqueous matrix into a stationary phase immobilized on a fused-silica fiber. The analytes are thermally desorbed directly in the injector of a gas chromatograph. The wide linear dynamic range (five orders of magnitude) and pg sensitivity of the ion trap mass spectrometer in its full scan mode is an ideal detector for identifying and quantifying the analytes extracted with an SPME device. The combined method SPME-GC-IT-MS, using fibers coated with a 100-microns polydimethylsiloxane coating, showed a limit of quantitation (LOQ) of 50 pg/ml benzene in water. This corresponds to 5 pg of benzene absorbed onto the fiber. The limit of detection (LOD) was 15 pg/ml benzene. For o-xylene spiked at 50 pg/ml in water 50 pg were absorbed by the fiber indicating an LOQ and LOD 10 times better than for benzene. The detection limits obtained exceed the requirements of both the United States Environmental Protection Agency method 524.2 and the Ontario Municipal/Industrial Strategy for Abatement program, which range from 30 to 80 pg/ml and 500 to 1100 pg/ml, respectively. The linearity of the method extended over five orders of magnitude. Relative standard deviation ranged from 2.7 to 5.2% for 15 ng/ml BTEX in water and from 5.5 to 7.5% for 50 pg/ml BTEX in water. SPME-GC-IT-MS was used to evaluate the contamination level in laboratory, potable and wastewater sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzene Derivatives / analysis*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry* / instrumentation
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry* / methods
  • Ions
  • Isomerism
  • Toluene / analysis
  • Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Xylenes / analysis


  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Ions
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Xylenes
  • Water
  • Toluene
  • ethylbenzene