The process of investigating a suspicious fire includes many different types of analyses. An essential step in confirming the presence of a liquid accelerant is gas chromatography (GC); detection with a mass spectrometer (MS) provides an accurate confirmation of both the presence and identity of an accelerant. In arson analysis, the sample preparation for GC–MS analysis is typically performed by headspace or solvent extraction.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are commonly found throughout the environment in soil, water and adsorbed to fine particulate matter in air. Of the 16 common PAHs, 7 have been classified as animal carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Resulting from this classification, PAHs are monitored and regulated in the environment.