Evaluation of a solid phase microextraction method for community-based monitoring of 1,3-butadiene and benzene in Houston, Texas

Gregory M Broyles, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The Houston region is home to arguably the largest petrochemical and refining complex anywhere. The effluent of this complex includes many potentially hazardous compounds. Study of some of these compounds has led to recognition that a number of known and probable carcinogens are at elevated levels in ambient air. Two of these, benzene and 1,3-butadiene, have been found in concentrations which may pose health risk for residents of Houston. Recent popular journalism and publications by local research institutions has increased the interest of the public in Houston's air quality. Much of the literature has been critical of local regulatory agencies' oversight of industrial pollution. A number of citizens in the region have begun to volunteer with air quality advocacy groups in the testing of community air. Inexpensive methods exist for monitoring of ozone, particulate matter and airborne toxic ambient concentrations. This study is an evaluation of a technique that has been successfully applied to airborne toxics. This technique, solid phase microextraction (SPME), has been used to measure airborne volatile organic hydrocarbons at community-level concentrations. It is has yielded accurate and rapid concentration estimates at a relatively low cost per sample. Examples of its application to measurement of airborne benzene exist in the literature. None have been found for airborne 1,3-butadiene. These compounds were selected for an evaluation of SPME as a community-deployed technique, to replicate previous application to benzene, to expand application to 1,3-butadiene and due to the salience of these compounds in this community. This study demonstrates that SPME is a useful technique for quantification of 1,3-butadiene at concentrations observed in Houston. Laboratory background levels precluded recommendation of the technique for benzene. One type of SPME fiber, 85 μm Carboxen/PDMS, was found to be a sensitive sampling device for 1,3-butadiene under temperature and humidity conditions common in Houston. This study indicates that these variables affect instrument response. This suggests the necessity of calibration within specific conditions of these variables. While deployment of this technique was less expensive than other methods of quantification of 1,3-butadiene, the complexity of calibration may exclude an SPME method from broad deployment by community groups.

Subject Area

Analytical chemistry|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Broyles, Gregory M, "Evaluation of a solid phase microextraction method for community-based monitoring of 1,3-butadiene and benzene in Houston, Texas" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1467585.