Simplified analysis of chlorinated ethenes in water samples by gas chromatography with flame ionization detection

Jonathan L. Ticknor, Omar Elsayed-Ali, Won Seok Kim, Maya A. Trotz, Jeffrey A. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Chlorinated ethenes are among the most common environmental contaminants and are known or suspected carcinogens. This class of compounds includes perchloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and their breakdown products, including dichloroethene (DCE) isomers and vinyl chloride (VC). Engineers and scientists must be able to measure concentrations of these chemicals in water samples to assess site contamination, monitor clean-up progress, and test possible remediation technologies. Gas chromatography with flame ionization detection (GC/FID) is a common method for measuring these contaminants in environmental samples. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that FID response factors are equal for all chlorinated ethene compounds. The rationale for the investigation was that if the hypothesis is correct, a single calibration curve can be used for GC/FID analysis of all chlorinated ethene compounds, saving time and money during sample analysis. Based on our measurements, a single calibration curve (FID response versus mass of analyte injected) is applicable to analysis of PCE, TCE, and all three DCE isomers (r2=0.990, n=50 measurements), allowing for simplified quantification of those chemicals. However, the apparent FID response factor for VC was lower by ∼40%, indicating that a separate calibration curve would need to be used to accurately estimate the VC concentration in water samples. The difference in the apparent VC response factor is caused predominantly by losses of VC to volatilization during the analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-37
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Engineering Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • chlorinated ethenes
  • flame ionization
  • gas chromatography
  • ground water
  • headspace
  • response factor


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