Evidence and quantitation of aromatic organosulfates in ambient aerosols in Lahore, Pakistan
Abstract. Organosulfates are important components of atmospheric organic aerosols, yet their structures, abundances, sources and formation processes are not adequately understood. This study presents the identification and quantitation of benzyl sulfate in atmospheric aerosols, which is the first confirmed atmospheric organosulfate with aromatic carbon backbone. Benzyl sulfate was identified and quantified in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) collected in Lahore, Pakistan, during 2007–2008. An authentic standard of benzyl sulfate was synthesized, standardized, and identified in atmospheric aerosols with quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-ToF) mass spectrometry (MS). Benzyl sulfate was quantified in aerosol samples using ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to negative electrospray ionization triple quadrupole (TQ) MS. The highest benzyl sulfate concentrations were recorded in November and January 2007 (0.50 ± 0.11 ng m−3) whereas the lowest concentration was observed in July (0.05 ± 0.02 ng m−3). To evaluate matrix effects, benzyl sulfate concentrations were determined using external calibration and the method of standard addition; comparable concentrations were detected by the two methods, which ruled out significant matrix effects in benzyl sulfate quantitation. Three additional organosulfates with m/z 187, 201 and 215 were qualitatively identified as aromatic organosulfates with additional methyl substituents by high-resolution mass measurements and tandem MS. The observed aromatic organosulfates form a homologous series analogous to toluene, xylene, and trimethylbenzene, which are abundant anthropogenic volatile organic compounds (VOC), suggesting that aromatic organosulfates may be formed by secondary reactions. However, stronger statistical correlations of benzyl sulfate with combustion tracers (EC and levoglucosan) than with secondary tracers (SO42− and α-pinene-derived nitrooxy organosulfates) suggest that aromatic organosulfates may be emitted from the combustion sources or their subsequent atmospheric processing. Further studies are needed to elucidate the sources and formation pathways of aromatic organosulfates in the atmosphere.