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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are a common pollutant created by natural (forest fires) or anthropogenic sources, such as incomplete combustion in engines (vehicular traffic) or incinerators. Many PAHs are known or suspected carcinogens and also have mutagenic properties and endocrine disrupting effects.

Although most atmospheric PAHs are measured using high-volume sample collection on filters, a convenient way of monitoring these pollutants is through plant matrices, such as pine needles that act as passive samplers. The needles are covered with a lipid-rich cuticle that absorbs the pollutants. Evergreens are especially useful because they continue to accumulate pollutants during the winter.

In order to use plants as monitors, a method to extract the PAHs must be used. Ultrasonication is a method that leaches the PAHs from the needles and into the solvent. The sonication agitates the pine needles and produces increased temperatures, which further abet the efficiency of the solvents' extraction. This rapid method can be applied to batches of samples. The procedure is followed by a cleanup step.

This poster was presented at the Wright State University Department of Chemistry Annual Posters in the Hall student research event on June 5, 2009.

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