Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) have a long history of use in the United States and around the world. Although the production and use of many OCPs has been banned since the 1970s, the compounds are extremely persistent in the environment and are known for accumulating in sediments, plants and animals. OCPs have a wide range of both acute and chronic health effects, including cancer, neurological damage, and birth defects. Many OCPs are also suspected as endocrine disruptors.1
Due to the need to monitor levels of OCPs, significant research and development has taken place over the last 40 years. This has culminated in two primary methods used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the transport and fate of OCPs; EPA Method 1699 and EPA Method 8081.
EPA Method 1699, isotope dilution and high-resolution mass spectrometry, is considered the ultimate in pesticide analysis relative to sensitivity and selectivity, but can be cost prohibitive.
EPA Method 8081 is a gas chromatography method that employs electron capture as a means of detection. To achieve some level of selectivity, the method is run in dual column mode with two dissimilar analytical columns. It has been well documented that the use of ECD can lead to false positives or high biases in the results generated by this method.2
This lack of selectivity is especially apparent when polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are present in the sample.