α-Hexachlorocyclohexane (α-HCH) is the only chiral isomer of the eight 1,2,3,4,5,6-HCHs and we have developed an enantiomer-specific stable carbon isotope analysis (ESIA) method for the evaluation of its fate in the environment. The carbon isotope ratios of the α-HCH enantiomers were determined for a commercially available α-HCH sample using a gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS) system equipped with a chiral column. The GC-C-IRMS measurements revealed δ-values of −32.5 ± 0.8‰ and −32.3 ± 0.5‰ for (−) α-HCH and (+) α-HCH, respectively. The isotope ratio of bulk α-HCH was estimated to be −32.4 ± 0.6‰ which was in accordance with the δ-values obtained by GC-C-IRMS (−32.7 ± 0.2‰) and elemental analyzer-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (EA-IRMS) of the bulk α-HCH (−32.1 ± 0.1‰). The similarity of the isotope ratio measurements of bulk α-HCH by EA-IRMS and GC-C-IRMS indicates the accuracy of the chiral GC-C-IRMS method. The linearity of the α-HCH ESIA method shows that carbon isotope ratios can be obtained for a signal size above 100 mV. The ESIA measurements exhibited standard deviations (2σ) that were mostly < ± 0.5‰. In order to test the chiral GC-C-IRMS method, the isotope compositions of individual enantiomers in biodegradation experiments of α-HCH with Clostridium pasteurianum and samples from a contaminated field site were determined. The isotopic compositions of the α-HCH enantiomers show a range of enantiomeric and isotope patterns, suggesting that enantiomeric and isotope fractionation can serve as an indicator for biodegradation and source characterization of α-HCH in the environment. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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