European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

New CRMs for benzo[a]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene and 6-methylchrysene released

ERM-AC051, ERM-AC053 and ERM-AC082

The JRC released three Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) of pure benzo[a]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene and 6-methylchrysene. These materials will ensure the traceability and comparability of measurements of these three carcinogenic substances in food and in the environment.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are a group of substances formed by incomplete burning of biological material. As such they are ubiquitous in the environment and in food samples. As many of them are carcinogenic, European Legislation sets strict limits for these compounds in food (e.g. Regulation 1881/2006) to make sure that products are safe and apt for consumption. Humans can also be exposed to these substances via water and air, so limit values are also set for water and air (e.g. Directive 2000/60/EC). The importance of this topic is highlighted by the fact that an European Union Reference Laboratory is entirely devoted to this substance class. Implementation of this legislation requires reliable measurements. 

Several factors contribute to the reliability of measurement results, such as properly validated methods, qualified staff and matrix CRMs for quality control. However, ultimately all results depend on the quality of the calibration standard. In recognition of this fact, the European Commission funded the production of several pure PAH standards. Three of them became exhausted and the JRC decided to replace them in order to guarantee the quality and traceability of measurement results in the future.

Benzo[a]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene and 6-methylchrysene were synthesized and aliquoted into vials. Extensive characterisation of the purity of the substances was performed, using gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, differential scanning calorimetry, element analysis and quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry. The agreement of results from methods based on completely different measurement principles ensures that the purity values assigned to ERM-AC051 (pure benzo[a]pyrene)ERM-AC053 (pure indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene) and ERM-AC082 (6-methylchrysene) are correct. The materials are available from the JRC as well as from its authorised distributors.