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Christopher L. Marcum 1 ; Bert C. Lynn 2

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Septum Piercing Needle. Plunger. Barrel. SPME Fiber. Cutaway view of SPME fiber in manual holder. Determination of BTEX Compounds in Ambient Air Using Solid Phase Microextraction Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Christopher L. Marcum 1 ; Bert C. Lynn 2.

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Septum Piercing Needle



SPME Fiber

Cutaway view of SPME fiber in manual holder

Determination of BTEX Compounds in Ambient Air Using Solid Phase Microextraction Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

Christopher L. Marcum1; Bert C. Lynn2

  • Department of Chemistry, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY
  • Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY



Results and Discussion

  • Air quality is of paramount importance. Exposure to air which contains contaminants can lead to major health problems including nervous system damage.
  • Recently, solid phase microextraction (SPME) has been offered as an alternative to traditional air sampling techniques for determination of air contaminants.
  • The purpose of our study is to develop a technique for the determination of BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes) in ambient indoor air using SPME, coupled with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
  • Evidence also shows a possible link between these BTEX contaminants and electronic equipment, such as laser printers and copiers.
  • SPME proved to be a very simple technique for air sampling and, when coupled with GC/MS, was very sensitive and selective for volatile organic compounds, including BTEX compounds.
  • Although concentrations were not determined, the chemistry copy room, chemistry office, and intellectual property office had the highest levels of contamination from BTEX compounds.
  • We found no observable link between either the presence or the use of a laser printer and an increase in BTEX compounds in the air.
  • We also were unable to link the presence of a copy machine to an increase in BTEX contamination.






tR=1.75 min


tR= 2.65 min

Future Work

Experimental Methods



m-Xylene and/or p-Xylene

tR= 3.83 min


tR= 3.71 min

  • Air sampling was accomplished through the use of a carboxen/PDMS SPME fiber placed in a manual holder. Before sampling, each fiber was conditioned for 2 hours in a hot GC injection port.

The chromatogram (top) is from a SPME fiber exposed for 6 hours in the chemistry department copy room. The peaks labeled A-D were identified as the BTEX compounds shown above. Chromatograms were obtained from each location and the peak areas were examined in order to compare the locations.

  • Analysis of other locations, including other campus buildings and perhaps some off-campus locations
  • Use of other traditional air sampling techniques to verify SPME results
  • Determine the concentration of BTEX compounds in each sample location
  • Testing of other possible sources of BTEX contamination using glove bag techniques

1 – Chemistry Copy Room

2 – Chemistry Office

3 – Intellectual Property Office

4 – ASTeCC Copy Room

5 – ASTeCC Conference Room

6 – Outside ASTeCC



  • Several locations were sampled across the campus of the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY:
    • Chemistry Department Copy Room, Chemistry Physics
    • Building
    • Chemistry Department Office, Chemistry-Physics
    • Building
    • Intellectual Property Office, Advanced Science and
    • Technology Commercialization Center (ASTeCC)
    • Building
    • Copy/Fax Room, ASTeCC Building
    • Conference Room, ASTeCC Building
    • Outside the ASTeCC Building


  • The peak areas for BTEX compounds were much greater in the chemistry copy room, chemistry office and intellectual property office.
  • We are grateful to the Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky REU program, funded by NSF and the Air Force ASSURE program for support of this work.
  • Fibers were transported to and from sample locations in clean glass tubes. Each sample fiber had an associated trip blank, which was not exposed to the air.
  • Immediately following sampling, analysis of the fibers was carried out via a Varian 3400 4D GC/MS equipped with electron ionization and an ion trap mass analyzer.
  • The effects of a laser printer on air quality were determined by enclosing a laser printer in a nitrogen filled glove bag and sampling the air in the bag while the printer was in several configurations: off, on without toner, and while printing.

1 – Nitrogen Only

2 – Printer Off

3 – Printer On

4 – Printer Printing

  • We would also like to thank the University of Kentucky Mass Spectrometry Facility and Michael Timmons for their assistance with this project. 
  • Peak areas for BTEX compounds did not increase within an enclosed glove bag when a laser printer was introduced, turned on, or printing.