The disposal and dumping of toxic waste is a matter of growing concern in developing countries, including South Africa. Frequently these countries do not possess access to gas chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (GC-HRMS) for the determination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). This publication
describes an alternative approach to the investigation of toxic waste using comprehensive gas chromatography coupled to time of flight mass spectrometry (GC × GC-TOFMS). The technology permits both comprehensive screening of toxic samples for numerous classes of organic pollutants and also quantitative analysis for the individual compounds. This paper describes the use of this technique by analysing samples obtained from a hazardous waste treatment facility in South Africa. After sampling and extraction the samples were analysed for polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) and four dioxin-like non-ortho substituted polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The quantitative values, as well as detection limits, obtained using the GC × GC-TOFMS methodology compares well with those obtained using GC-HRMS; the accepted benchmark technology for this analysis. Although GC GC-TOFMS is not a target compound analytical technique (as is GC-HRMS), it is possible to obtain information on numerous other classes of organic pollutants present in the samples in one analytical run. This is not possible with GC-HRMS. Several different column combinations have been investigated for handling very complex waste samples and suggestions are presented for the most suitable combination.