Since biodegradation can result in selective removal of many of the compounds required for the identification of an ignitable liquid, this study examined the effects of microbial degradation on tiki torch fuel, lamp oil, and turpentine.
Samples of soil spiked with 20μL of the liquids were stored at room temperature for up to 7days. The ignitable liquids were then recovered using passive headspace concentration onto charcoal strips followed by solvent elution using pentane. Microbial degradation of tiki torch fuel resulted in the loss of the n-alkanes relative to the branched alkanes. Changes in the profile of the lamp oil were minor due to the highly branched nature of its alkanes. Microbial degradation of turpentine resulted in the selective loss of limonene and o-cymene. Overall, significant degradation by microbial action could result in the inability to identify the presence of an ignitable liquid or misclassify the ignitable liquid found. (publisher abstract modified)