Volatiles are a class of organic compounds which easily become gaseous at room temperature.  Some volatiles are known or suspected carcinogens. As pollutants, these compounds may enter the environment in various ways:

  • Spread through water as dissolved gases
  • Permeate soil
  • Pass into the air

Sometimes these chemicals enter our environment through contamination such as spills. Other times volatile chemicals may be introduced as inadvertant side effects of normal water treatment (i.e. chlorine disinfection).

Thousands of samples being tested for volatiles pass through the laboratory each year. Most are water samples taken from public utilities in order to monitor their safety. Any source of water deemed as a public drinking water supply must be analyzed in the CAS volatiles laboratory.

The methods used for the identification and measurement of volatiles employ gas chromatography with a mass spectrometer. Using this method of analysis enables the laboratory to detect volatiles at extremely low concentrations. Most can be detected at concentrations lower than one part per billion

Trichloroethene Spectrum

Trichloroethene spectrum identified in a water sample from Camdenton, Missouri.

Samples gases are desorbed to a capillary column. This chromatography column separates the different components from one another, thus allowing them to be introduced to the mass spectrometer where they are identified and quantified.