Saponification for PAH analysis in edible oil

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are environmental toxicants which are widely distributed and both of anthropogenic and natural origin. Due to their lipophile character, bioaccumulation and carcinogenic behaviour they are dangerous for humans health.


PAHs are produced during incomplete combustion of more or less all organic materials. They can be found in mineral oil, pitch, tar, carbon black and products made of these materials, but also in tobacco smoke, fly ashes and exhaust gases. For this reason, they are enriched in the atmosphere and soil.

Hot-pressed edible oils also can be highly contaminated because of the ubiquitous distribution of PAHs on the one hand and the production process of the oil on the other hand. For this work an important oil, made from a special pumpkin seed, grown in the region of Graz, was tested. During the production of pumpkin seed oil it is necessary to roast the ground pumpkin seeds for a short time at a temperature of 100°C in order to break the walls of the cells. This roasting process is responsible for the typical taste of the oil, but may also be the reason for the presence of PAHs by aromatization of organic compounds.

For lack of standard materials for hot-pressed oils, certified coconut oil (BCR CRM 458) was used instead.

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