Analysis of volatile organic compounds released from the decay of surrogate human models simulating victims of collapsed buildings by thermal desorption-comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry
Statheropoulos, Miltiades K.
SourceAnalytica Chimica Acta
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Field experiments were devised to mimic the entrapment conditions under the rubble of collapsed buildings aiming to investigate the evolution of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the early dead body decomposition stage. Three pig carcasses were placed inside concrete tunnels of a search and rescue (SAR) operational field terrain for simulating the entrapment environment after a building collapse. The experimental campaign employed both laboratory and on-site analytical methods running in parallel. The current work focuses only on the results of the laboratory method using thermal desorption coupled to comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TD-GC × GC-TOF MS). The flow-modulated TD-GC × GC-TOF MS provided enhanced separation of the VOC profile and served as a reference method for the evaluation of the on-site analytical methods in the current experimental campaign. Bespoke software was used to deconvolve the VOC profile to extract as much information as possible into peak lists. In total, 288 unique VOCs were identified (i.e., not found in blank samples). The majority were aliphatics (172), aromatics (25) and nitrogen compounds (19), followed by ketones (17), esters (13), alcohols (12), aldehydes (11), sulfur (9), miscellaneous (8) and acid compounds (2). The TD-GC × GC-TOF MS proved to be a sensitive and powerful system for resolving the chemical puzzle of above-ground "scent of death". © 2015 Elsevier B.V..
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