Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are toxic chemicals that have been used in the past in transformers and capacitors for their dielectric properties. PCBs contamination can be found in water, sediment (soil) and oil samples. The manufacture of PCBs stopped in the 1970s and use of polychlorinated biphenyls was banned by the 2004 Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The use and production of PCBs and PCB containing materials span over decades which make the accurate detection important for the environment and human health.
The identification and quantification of PCB can be extremely difficult due to matrix interferences from the samples. Possible Polychlorinated biphenyls in transformer oil and oil contaminated soil needs to be separated/extracted from the oil (hydrocarbon matrix) to be accurately quantified; this is done by SPE at UIS Organic laboratory.
Ethanol/Hexane is used for extraction of PCB/oil from the soil depending on the contamination of the soil. If the soil contains any oil the PCBs will need to be separated from the oil using SPE. The separation from the oil is an essential step as the hydrocarbon matrix interferes with the identification and quantification of the PCBs. Sulfoxide is the stationary phase used and this phase will retard the elution of the PCBs due to the interaction with the sulfoxide phase and successfully separated the Polychlorinated biphenyls from the hydrocarbon matrix.