Characterization of Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds in Commercial Pavement Sealcoat Products for Enhanced Source Apportionment Academic Article uri icon

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  • Coal tar-based sealcoat (CTSC) products are an urban source of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) to the environment. However, efforts to assess the environmental fate and impacts of CTSC-derived PACs are hindered by the ubiquity of (routinely monitored) PACs released from other environmental sources. To advance source identification of CTSC-derived PACs, we use comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (GC × GC/HRMS) to characterize the major and minor components of CTSC products in comparison to those in other sources of PACs, viz., asphalt-based sealcoat products, diesel particulate, diesel fuel, used motor oil and roofing shingles. GC × GC/HRMS analyses of CTSC products led to the confident assignment of compounds with 88 unique elemental compositions, which includes a set of 240 individual PACs. Visualization of the resulting profiles using Kendrick mass defect plots and hierarchical cluster analysis highlighted compositional differences between the sources. Profiles of alkylated PAHs, and heteroatomic (N, O, S) PACs enabled greater specificity in source differentiation. Isomers of specific polycyclic aromatic nitrogen heterocycles (PANHs) were diagnostic for coal tar-derived PAC sources. The compounds identified and methods used for this identification are anticipated to aid in future efforts on risk assessment and source apportionment of PACs in environmental matrices.


  • Bowman, David T
  • Jobst, Karl
  • Helm, Paul A
  • Kleywegt, Sonya
  • Diamond, Miriam L

publication date

  • March 19, 2019