Tip of the Month: Does BAL perform Halogen Speciation?

Not only can Brooks Applied Labs analyze for total halogens (such as bromine, chlorine, and iodine), but BAL also offers speciation analytical services for these halogens! Using the power of ion chromatography (IC) coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), BAL can individually quantitate bromide, bromate, iodide, iodate, chloride, chlorate, perchlorate, and chlorite. Contact us to discuss your project. We would love to help with all of your speciation needs!

Previous Tip of the Month’s: March 2017, February 2017, and January 2017


What are the different arsenic species that can be determined at BAL?
  • Arsenite
  • Arsenate
  • Total Inoraganic Arsenic
  • Monomethyl Arsonic Acid
  • Dimethyl Arsenous Acid
  • Trimethyl Arsonic Acid
  • Arsenobetaine
  • Arsenocholine
  • Arsenopropionate
  • 4-Hydroxy phenlarsonic acid
  • p-Arsanilic acid
  • Roxarsone
  • 3-Amino-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid
  • 4-Aminophenylarsonic acid
  • Nitarsone
  • Phenylarsonic acid
  • Various Arseno-thiols
  • Various Arsenosugars (S and P)
  • Hexafluoroarsenate
  • Arsenolipids
  • Other Arsenic Species are Available
Which Arsenic Species should I Test for?

The decision about which arsenic species should be tested for depends on what your data quality objectives are for your project, or more simply, what questions do you need the data to answer? Toxicity risk? Treatability options? Fate and transport of the contaminant? Source identification? Investigation of metabolic processes? Impact of environmental conditions on bioaccumulation? Ecological risk assessment? In food products, the inorganic forms of arsenic, such as arsenate and arsenite, may be the species of interest due to their higher toxicity. However, some projects need to isolate specific organic forms of arsenic, including monomethylarsonic acid (MMAs) and dimethylarsinic acid (DMAs), trimethylarsine oxide (TMAO), arsenocholine (AsC), and/or arsenobetaine (AsB) in fish tissue or human urine for toxicological studies. In other investigations fractionation of arsenic in solid substrates is more appropriate to allow for a more holistic representation of arsenic fate and transport. Important information to gather before analysis includes site background data, study goals, data quality objectives, and historical concentrations of arsenic. With this information, our technical staff and research chemists are able to recommend the most appropriate method(s), analyte list (BAL can quantitate more than 20 different species!), and matrix-specific sample preparation options to help you achieve your data goals. Please feel free to contact us directly to discuss your study goals.

What’s the preservative for arsenic speciation in water samples?

Preservation of water samples for arsenic speciation is important because either chemical or biological reactions can change the distribution of species (or chemical forms) of arsenic in a sample. For example, microorganisms can reduce arsenate to arsenite or inorganic arsenic forms to organic arsenicals (such as monomethylarsonic acid), exposure to UV light can induce oxidation of arsenite to arsenate, and metals like iron can remove arsenic species from solution through precipitation between collection and analysis. Therefore, proper sample preservation is critical to minimize any biases in the data.

The appropriate preservative for a water sample depends on several factors, including the sample matrix, the target arsenic species to be quantified, and the data quality objectives of the project. For regulatory permitting requiring the use of EPA Method 1632, samples are generally preserved with hydrochloric acid. Surface waters and oxic groundwaters may also be preserved with a buffered acetate solution containing a chelating agent (EDTA) that will prevent coprecipitation of arsenic with other metals.

For more complex matrices, research performed by Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) and by other scientists has demonstrated that acidification can induce significant biases in the obtained arsenic speciation data. This is particularly true for samples that are reducing or anoxic, such as landfill leachates or deeper groundwaters, where either unique arsenic species or sulfides may be present. Therefore, BAL has developed a method to preserve the arsenic species in such samples, which involves collection into evacuated vials containing EDTA.

Regardless of what chemical preservative is applied to the samples, arsenic speciation fractions should generally be kept cold (0-4 °C) and in the dark after collection and during shipment.

In summary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for arsenic speciation that works for all water sample types and all possible arsenic species! Instead, the most appropriate approach depends upon the unique chemistry of the samples. BAL’s staff is here to help you select the best technique to ensure the representativeness and defensibility of your data. We strongly encourage you to contact us to discuss your project needs before collecting samples for arsenic speciation.


Does BAL Support Clinical Studies?

Brooks Applied Labs holds an array of accreditations to support nearly any project scope for metals and metalloid speciation analyses. Whether you need CLIA certification for clinical drug studies or analytical services for population studies, we can support your needs. Partnering with BAL means you not only have the highest level of data quality but also a resource to draw upon for ensuring your projects run efficiently and conforms to the rigors of the highest scientific principles.

Whether you are dealing with environmental issues, treatability studies, pharmacokinetics, or any other issues associated with metals and metalloid compounds, simply contact us or call us directly at 206-632-6206, and one of our technical specialists will either assist you immediately or put you in contact with one of our senior level scientists.


Does BAL offer Cyanide Analysis?

Brooks Applied Labs offers cyanide analysis using a method that couples ion chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection (IC-PAD). This method reduces the positive and negative interferences associated with most other amperometric and colorimetric methods. IC-PAD chromatographically separates interfering ions prior to amperometric detection and does not require chemical reactions to form a light absorbing compound. The IC-PAD method was developed to provide free cyanide and total cyanide quantitation in highly complex waste streams which could not be supported by currently accepted methods.


Does BAL Support Stable Isotope Ratio Testing?

Brooks Applied Labs currently offers stable isotope ratio testing for lead, mercury, and other elements in soils, sediments, freshwater, and seawater matrices, achieving 0.1% ratio precision for most elements. This type of environmental forensic testing provides reliable traceability of a contaminant and can increase the efficacy of mining exploration efforts. To learn about the technology utilized, please visit the Stable Isotope Ratio Testing page of our website.


What is Mercury SSE?

Brooks Applied Labs offers a Selective Sequential Extraction (SSE) method for soil, sediment, sludge and other solid waste matrices to assess the mobility and bioavailability of mercury. This sequential extraction method is based on the publication Selective Extractions to Assess the Biogeochemically Relevant fractionation of Inorganic Mercury in Sediments and Soils (Bloom et. al., Analytica Chimica Acta 479 (2003) 233–248). Follow this link to our website for more information on our method options for Mercury Speciation. If the site is regulated and a USEPA promulgated method is required then you may opt for USEPA Method 3200, which offers quantification of the mobility of mercury in solid matrices. For a complete overview of mercury species and compounds quantified using the SSE method and USEPA Method 3200 please review Mercury Speciation in Soils, Sediment and other Solids. If you would like a copy of the Bloom et. al. article or information on pricing for mercury speciation methods for solids, please contact us.

What type of traps should I use for the collection of air and natural gas samples for mercury analysis, and where can I purchase them?

For the collection of air samples for mercury analysis, you can use either iodated carbon traps or gold-coated glass bead traps, depending on the collection method and relative concentration of the samples to be collected. For the collection of natural gas samples for mercury analysis, you should use gold-coated sand traps. All of these trap types may be purchased from Brooks Rand Instruments.

What sample bottle types are appropriate for low-level mercury and methylmercury water sample collection?

Water samples to be analyzed for low-level mercury (EPA 1631E) or methylmercury (EPA 1630) must be collected in either a fluoropolymer or glass bottle. Brooks Applied Labs recommends the use of fluorinated high-density polyethylene (FLPE) bottles.

If I am outside of the United States, can I have water samples analyzed for elemental mercury?

Unfortunately, we cannot offer total volatile mercury (which includes elemental mercury) analysis of water samples to our international clients due to the difficulty of analyzing samples within the holding time (samples MUST be analyzed within 24 hours of collection).

Can Brooks Applied Labs analyze samples for elemental mercury?

Elemental mercury in water samples can be measured as part of the analysis for total volatile mercury (which includes both elemental mercury and dimethylmercury; dimethylmercury is very uncommon and rarely found in most water samples – landfill leachates being a notable potential exception). For soil samples, the elemental mercury concentrations can be estimated by using either EPA Method 3200 or BAL’s 5-step selective sequential selective extraction (5-step SSE) procedure.

What is the sample volume requirement for MS/MSD samples for total mercury in water by EPA Method 1631E?

The bottles we send to our clients will be large enough to account for MS/MSD aliquots to be taken from any sample. Our standard 250-mL FLPE bottle has enough volume to do the MS/MSD from the same bottle as the initial measurement.

What are the required preservations for mercury and methylmercury in waters?

Total mercury by EPA Method 1631E has a 28-day holding time before preservation. Samples for total mercury in waters are generally preserved/oxidized by BAL after receipt with BrCl in the original sample containers. Methylmercury has a 48-hour holding time before preservation. It is recommended that clients receive containers pre-preserved with HCl if they cannot keep their samples at 0 – 4 °C and return to Brooks Applied Labs within 48 hours.

Pricing and Quotations

Who do I Contact for 2017 Pricing?

If your contract or Laboratory Services Agreement expired at the end of the year, simply contact us and your Brooks Applied Labs project manager or one of our technical specialists will assist you immediately!

Is BAL DoD Accredited?

Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) is currently accredited by the Department of Defense (DoD) for the parameters and analytical methods listed on our website. If you do not see a specific metal or method listed that is required for your DoD project, please let us know! We can easily add new parameters to our DoD scope of accreditation, and we are eager to learn about our DoD clients’ analytical needs!

What are the discounts Brooks Applied Labs offer for our analytical services?

Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) offers the following discounts for our analytical services:

  • Volume discounts starting at projects > $5,000
  • Publication discounts for data which may be published in a scientific journal, presentation at a conference, poster presentation (BAL must be cited in the publication)
  • Extended turn-around times for deliverables
  • USFWS Contract applied discounts

Contact us for more information!

Which methods are BAL accredited for?
View our complete list of current accreditations on our site. If you do not see a specific metal or method listed that is required for your project, please let us know! Often, we can easily add new parameters to our scope of accreditation per state or per entity, and we are eager to learn about our clients’ accreditation needs!

Which Electronic Data Deliverables (EDD) does BAL offer to our clients for free?

Currently, we offer over 20 EDDs at no additional charge to our clients. We ensure that all our report packages and EDDs are easy to read, reference, understand, and evaluate while containing all necessary information.


What are BAL’s Data Qualifiers?
B Detected by the instrument, the result is > the MDL but ≤ the MRL. Result is reported and considered an estimate.
E An estimated value due to the presence of interferences. A full explanation is presented in the narrative.
H Holding time and/or preservation requirements not met. Result is estimated.
J Estimated value. A full explanation is presented in the narrative.
J-M Duplicate precision (RPD) for associated QC sample was not within acceptance criteria. Result is estimated.
J-N Spike recovery for associated QC sample was not within acceptance criteria. Result is estimated.
M Duplicate precision (RPD) was not within acceptance criteria. Result is estimated.
N Spike recovery was not within acceptance criteria. Result is estimated.
R Rejected, unusable value. A full explanation is presented in the narrative.
U Result is ≤ the MDL or client requested reporting limit (CRRL). Result reported as the MDL or CRRL.
X Result is not BLK-corrected and is within 10x the absolute value of the highest detectable BLK in the batch. Result is estimated.

For the most up-to-date list of data qualifiers, refer to the Quality Assurance page of our website.

How Low are BAL’s Detection Limits?

Brooks Applied Labs offers the lowest method detection limits (MDLs) in the industry! You can find our current list of MDLs per matrix type on our website.

If you do not see the analyte/matrix combination you are looking for, simply contact us or call us directly at 206-632-6206, and one of our technical specialists will provide the detection limit and reporting limit information you need.

What is BAL’s Cr(VI) Detection Limit?

Brooks Applied Labs’ method detection limit for Cr(VI) in waters is 0.003 parts-per-billion (ppb)! That is nearly 10 times lower than the California Public Health Goal maximum contamination limit of 0.02 ppb set in 2011. For more information check out our page on Cr(VI).

Please review our current list of MDLs per matrix type. If you do not see the analyte/matrix combination you are looking for, simply contact us or call us directly at 206-632-6206, and one of our technical services specialists will provide the detection limit and reporting limit information you need.

Sample Collection and Handling

What is the holding time for laboratory filtration of water samples?

All samples requiring filtration for dissolved analyses MUST be filtered within 2 days of sample collection and kept at 0-4 °C prior to filtration, with the following exceptions: (1) samples requiring filtration for dissolved mercury by EPA 1631 should be filtered within 24 hours (or 1 day) of sample collection {samples not filtered within 1 day will be narrated, samples not filtered within 2 days will have the results qualified}, (2) samples requiring filtration for dissolved trace elements by EPA 200.8 must be filtered within 15 minutes of collection (field-filtration is required), and (3) samples requiring filtration for dissolved arsenic species by EPA 1632 must be field-filtered.

What is the recommended preservation for water samples to be analyzed for selenium speciation?

For all samples, field-filtration recommended, especially for samples with high levels of solids. Samples should be collected with zero headspace and kept dark. For natural water samples, preserve with HCl to pH < 2 (pre-preserved containers can be provided with 0.1% (v/v) HCl). For industrial wastewater samples, samples should be unpreserved. For all sample types, the shipping and storage temperature should match the sample collection temperature as closely as is reasonably possible. For example, chilly lake samples should be shipped on ice and stored refrigerated, and warm wastewater samples should be shipped and stored at ambient temperature.

What is the holding time and recommended preservation for trace metals in fresh waters to be analyzed by ICP-MS?

Fresh water samples for ICP-MS analysis by EPA Method 1638 (modified) are to be preserved with HNO3 to pH < 2 within 14 days of collection. BAL recommends that samples are shipped unpreserved and acidified at the lab. After preservation, the samples have a 6-month holding time.

Do I need to wear clean gloves, and how often should I change my gloves while collecting my samples?

Yes! Clean gloves should be worn during collecting of any samples submitted for low-level trace metal analysis. Gloves should be changed frequently (i.e., in-between samples or if you feel that your gloves have been compromised).

Can I submit my samples in a cardboard box?

Yes! If the samples are not required to be kept cold (e.g., total mercury in waters or total recoverable ICP-MS metals in waters), the box is sturdy, and the samples are packaged so that they do not shift too much during transport, then a cardboard box may be used.

Do I need to collect field blanks?

EPA Methods 1600-series methods require that a minimum of 1 field blank accompany each set of samples collected at a given site, to a maximum of 10 samples. Field blanks are analyzed at standard analytical prices and should be added to the quoted sample quantity if required for your project.

How often am I required to submit a field blank sample?

Depending on the specific program requirements associated with the analysis of samples collected, the collection and analysis of field blanks may be required. If the proper frequency of field blanks are not collected and analyzed, sample may not be reportable for regulatory purposes. It is the client’s responsibility to determine what field QC samples are required to be collected with their samples and at what frequency these field QC samples must be analyzed. For more information, please contact a Brooks Applied Labs Project Manager.

How do I keep my samples cold as the temperatures outside heat up?

As the temperatures start to heat up in the late spring, properly preparing shipments of samples that must stay cold becomes a crucial subject. Many types of samples must stay very cold during shipment (such as samples to be filtered, samples for speciation analysis, etc.). Some clients prefer to use ice packs (such as Blue Ice) in coolers to keep them cold, but it has been our experience that this will often not be sufficient as the temperatures outside heat up. For samples that need to stay in the 0 – 4 ± 2 °C range, Brooks Applied Labs highly recommends using large bags (double-bagged) of real ice (aka “wet ice”). The ratio of samples and ice in a cooler should be about 1:1.

Why should I use "Clean Sampling"?

If your project requires sub-ppb quantification of metals, it is critical to educate and train your sampling team on clean sample collection techniques to avoid trace metals contamination during the sample collection process. After all, what is the value in ultra-low-level data if your field and equipment blanks data demonstrate evidence of contamination from the method and/or equipment used to collect your samples? Brooks Applied Labs’ project management staff routinely provide consulting at the onset of a project as the sampling plan is being developed. We also can provide an overview of the protocols outlined in EPA Method 1669 (also referred to as the “Clean/Hands Dirty Hands” clean sample collection method). We provide certified-clean sampling equipment such as capsule filters, tubing, and sample containers, and well as ultra-low level deionized water for the collection of field and equipment blanks. Additionally, our experienced staff routinely provide low-level metals sample collection training courses directly for our clients or open-to-the-public through the Northwest Environmental Training Center. To learn more about any of these services, please contact us or visit our website for an overview of Clean Sample Collection. We are here to help you achieve the highest quality data for your project!

What is Ultra-Trace Lab Filtration?

Have you ever wondered why a total (or total recoverable) data point was significantly lower than a dissolved data point? Is filtration-related contamination a possible source of bias? If yes, how does your lab’s standard operating procedures address this source of contamination? At Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) we maintain rigorous QA/QC protocol for ultra-trace lab filtration to eliminate this type of erroneous data. BAL uses all-plastic, sterile disposal filtration units, and each lot received is tested for filtering trace level aqueous samples at a 10% frequency (certificates of analysis certifying each filter lot acceptably low in trace metals is available upon request for a small fee). In addition to lot testing, BAL acid cleans each filtration unit in a Class 100 Clean Hood prior to use. For an overview of our comprehensive quality assurance and quality control procedures that support the outstanding data quality BAL provides, please download the latest version of our Quality Assurance Plan.

Sample Submittal and Receiving

Do you receive samples on Saturdays?

Yes, we can receive samples on Saturdays between the hours of 8:00 am – 1:00 pm PST. Advanced notice of samples for Saturday receipt should be provided to your BAL Project Manager (or via email to samples@brooksapplied.com). Samples for Saturday receipt should be shipped via Express/Air courier service, and the “Saturday Receipt” box must be checked on the airbill. Please contact your BAL Project Manager in advance and provide the shipping tracking number.

What is BAL's Shipping Address?

Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) is now located in Bothell, WA. Please use the address listed on the BAL chain-of-custody (COC) form provided to you by your BAL point-of-contact. The COC form can also be downloaded from our website (NEW Brooks Applied COC form). If you have any questions about which location to ship your samples to, please contact us right away!


Does BAL offer packages for different groups of Se Species?

Brooks Applied Labs offers selenium speciation analysis packages tailored to your industry’s needs by experienced analytical chemists. Typically, the inorganic species of selenium (selenite and selenate) are of primary interest for our clients, but there are other forms which may be important. For example, more complex Se species can be important indicators of the efficiency of some types of wastewater treatment systems, and having this information can lead to improved optimization of such systems.

  • Basic Package: Se(IV) and Se(VI)
  • Bonus Package: Se(IV), Se(VI), SeCN, and SeSO3
  • Full Characterization: Se(IV), Se(VI), SeCN, SeSO3, SeMet, MeSe, and unknown Se species

With all packages, the analysis of total (dissolved) selenium is also critical for the evaluation of mass balance. Our technical services specialists and project management scientific staff are eager to learn more about your project and can provide you with the most appropriate analytical method options for your specific undertaking.

We are here to help, simply contact us or call us directly at 206-632-6206 to discuss your wastewater issues!

What are the different selenium species that can currently be determined in waters at BAL?
  • Selenite
  • Selenate
  • Selenocyanate
  • Methyl Seleninic Acid
  • Selenomethionine
  • Selenosulfate
  • Se-Methyl-L-Selenocysteine
  • Dimethyldiselenide
  • Dimethylselenide
  • Other Selenium Species are Available

Trace Metals

What is the samples volume requirement for MS/MSD samples for trace metals in water by ICP-MS by EPA Method 1638 (modified)?

The bottles we send to our clients will be large enough to account for MS/MSD aliquots to be taken from any sample. Our standard 125-mL HDPE bottle has enough volume to do the MS/MSD from the same bottle as the initial measurement.

What are the Most Common Heavy Metals to Test for in Foods?

Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are commonly referred to as the “Big 4”, and they are routinely requested together for the testing of foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements. Another commonly requested test is Inorganic Arsenic, which allows for determination of the more toxic form of arsenic.

As people become ever more demanding about the quality of the food, beverages, and dietary supplements they purchase and consume every day, the presence of heavy metals in products (even at very low levels) has become a matter of growing concern.

Many natural ingredients accumulate small amounts of heavy metals from the environment (i.e., the soil and water), but determining exactly how much of a specific metal is in a product requires extremely sensitive analytical techniques. Perhaps even more importantly, since natural levels can often be in the low parts-per-billion range, laboratories that are not experienced with the proper analytical methods can easily contaminate samples.

At Brooks Applied Labs, we specialize exclusively in testing for heavy metals at ultra-low-levels for the environmental, energy, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Our laboratories, instruments, methods, and staff are all strictly committed to providing the most precise and accurate data for heavy metals available.

Using the latest in microwave digestion and ICP-MS technologies, we provide heavy metals testing services to companies that manufacture, distribute, and retail a variety of consumer products. Our ultra-sensitive analytical method was recently submitted to the AOAC and is currently under consideration to become an Official Method for testing food, beverages, and dietary supplements for heavy metals.

What method is used for Trace Metals in Seawaters?

EPA Method 1640 was developed specifically to provide reliable measurements of metals at ambient levels in seawater. This method provides for a number of preconcentration techniques, combined with analysis by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), to overcome the physical and chemical interferences presented by elevated concentrations of salts and other interfering components of seawater. Consequently, ultra-low detection limits can be achieved and the most subtle differences in metals concentrations can be determined.

Which elements does Brooks Applied Labs offer speciation testing for?
Brooks Applied Labs currently offers elemental speciation analyses applicable to the following elements:

  • Arsenic
  • Selenium
  • Chromium
  • Mercury
  • Vanadium
  • Thallium
  • Antimony
  • Cobalt
  • Molybdenum
  • Phosphate
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Tungsten
  • Bromine
  • Chlorine
  • Sulfur
  • Iron

Speciation for all elements may not be available in all matrices. If you do not see your element on this list please contact us, as we are constantly developing new methods! 

Does BAL do testing for Organolead Compounds?

Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) offers direct quantification of specific organic forms of lead (Pb) in waters and solid matrices. We perform analysis for tri-alkylated (including Pb(CH3)3 and PbEt3) and tetra-alkylated (including Pb(CH3)4 and PbEt4) forms using ion chromatography couple (IC) coupled to ICP-MS. The ability to quantify the different organolead compounds present can provide insight into the degree of toxicity potential at the site and the selection of the most cost-effective remediation technology. Since organic Pb is far more toxic than inorganic Pb, knowing the concentrations of these compounds in your water samples will aid in the identification of the most appropriate and cost-effective remediation technique. Strict adherence to clean sample collection and preservation techniques is critical; therefore, it’s important to discuss your project with your BAL representative prior to initiation of sampling to ensure that reported results are representative of your site. To learn more about our various metals speciation methods, click here, or contact us to help design a customized analytical approach to achieve your project objectives.