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Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Marine Mammal Blubber: Results from an Interlaboratory Study



Kevin M. Huncik, John R. Kucklick, Jared M. Ragland


To support NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding program, NIST Charleston was requested to investigate the feasibility of measuring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in marine mammal blubber. Marine mammal blubber can possess high (mg/kg) concentrations of persistent organic pollutants that may interfere with measuring PAHs. The major goals for this study are (1) to determine if laboratories can differentiate PAHs from the persistent organic pollutant (POP)-dominated background typically seen in blubber samples and (2) to determine if POPs in blubber can result in false-positive detections of PAHs such as those arising from laboratory contamination. Five samples were distributed; PAH amended and unamended extracts from high and low POP marine mammal blubber, respectively, and a solution amended with individual PAH compounds. Results from this study indicate that PAHs can be measured in marine mammal blubber and differentiated from POPs co-occurring in the sample. Laboratories did not report PAHs in high POP, non-PAH amended blubber extracts indicating that for this study there were few (
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8233
Report Number


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAH
Created March 20, 2019, Updated March 12, 2020