Chinese Journal of Chromatography ›› 2022, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (12): 1111-1118.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1123.2022.01022

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Determination of 16 particle-phase polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in herbal incense by ultrasonic extraction-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and analysis of emission characteristics

CAI Meizhen()   

  1. National Quality Supervision and Inspection Center for Incense Products (Fujian), Quanzhou 362600, China
  • Received:2022-01-25 Online:2022-12-08 Published:2022-11-29
  • Contact: CAI Meizhen
  • Supported by:
    Science and Technology Plan Project of Quanzhou(2019N030)


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have attracted global attention because they are carcinogens and mutagenic to humans. To date, more than 200 PAHs have been found. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has designated 16 PAH species as priority control pollutants due to their highly toxic substances. Herbal incense is frequently used in daily life. As a result, it is critical to investigate its impact on human health and environmental safety. However, research on particle-phase PAHs is very limited and inapplicable. The current research focuses mainly on bamboo incense, which has a simpler formula than herbal incense.
In this study, the emission factor and emission characteristics of particle-phase PAHs from herbal incense were described. A method combining ultrasonic and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was developed for the simultaneous determination of 16 particle-phase PAHs of herbal incense. The settings for extraction solvent, ultrasonic time, and instrument analysis conditions were optimized. In the test chamber, samples were collected by burning 0.8 g of herbal incense. After combustion, PAHs adsorbing on the particles of herbal incense were collected on a quartz filter. The whole filter sample was sliced and extracted with n-hexane-dichloromethane (1∶1, v/v). A rotary evaporator was used to concentrate the extract. GC-MS was used to analyze the prepared sample. The internal standard method was used to perform quantitative analysis on the target compounds. The linearities of the 16 target PAHs were good between mass concentrations of 0.1-5.0 μg/mL, with correlation coefficients greater than 0.998. The method detection limits (MDLs) of the 16 PAHs ranged from 0.4 to 3.8 ng/g. The 0.625 μg/g and 1.25 μg/g spiked recoveries ranged from 77.4% to 99.5% and 82.0% to 101.3%, respectively. The relative standard deviations (RSDs) of the 16 PAHs were ranged from 0.7% to 7.2% (n=6). The emission factors of particle-phase PAHs from five different kinds of herbal incense ranged from 4.60 to 11.89 μg/g. The highest concentration of phenanthrene (Phe) was found in 16 particle-phase individual PAHs of herbal incense. Fluoranthene (Flu), pyrene (Pyr), chrysene (Chr) and anthracene (Ant) concentration were ranked after Phe. The sum of these five proportions was 73.00%-89.97%. The proportion of Phe in herbal incense particle-phase PAHs was significantly higher than that of other indoor combustion sources. As a result, Phe could be used to identify individual PAHs in the particle-phase of herbal incense. The particle-phase PAHs were mainly distributed on the 3-ring and 4-ring, with a sum of 83.84% to 96.31% on the 3-ring and 4-ring. The proportion of high-molecular weight PAHs in the samples ranged from 44.25% to 63.31%. The proportion of low-molecular weight PAHs in the samples ranged from 36.69% to 55.75%. The incense source could be distinguished from other indoor combustion sources by its distinctive Phe/Flu ratio. The established method has high sensitivity, simple operation, and requires fewer samples. This method is suitable for rapidly detecting PAHs in burning incense. At the same time, it provides scientific data for further studies on the distribution and health effects of particle-phase PAHs of herbal incense.

Key words: ultrasonic extraction, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), particle-phase, emission characteristics, characteristic ratio, herbal incense

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