Individual PAHs were characterized using a gas chromatograph equipped with a mass spectrometer (Trace-GC and Trace Q MS) and controlled by the proprietary software Excalibur (all from Thermo Fisher, Rodano MI, Italy). The analytes were separated applying a temperature gradient from 90 up to 290°C to a 25-m-long RT5MS type column (i.d. = 250 μm, film thickness = 0.33 μm, Superchrom, Milan, Italy), under a Helium constant flow of 1.0 mL.min-1. For identification, the combination of relative retention times, mass spectra and ion trace ratios of the peaks was compared with that of authentic PAH standards. For quantitative purposes, the peak area of each compound had compared with that of its perdeuterated homologue or the closest internal reference in the chromatogram (isotopic dilution method). The quantitative data were kept as reliable when the resulting concentrations lied within the operating ranges of the detector, i.e., 3.3 to ~ 1000 times the respective detection limits.

Filter blanks were included in the chromatograms in the correspondence; in the cases of phenanthrene and pyrene (light PAH congeners), blanks were quite important and accounted for in the quantitative determinations. The recovery rates varied between 83% and 106% (±9%), and the accuracy was better than 11% for all species.

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