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Arsenic in Fireworks

We hope you enjoyed your 4th of July! While watching those vivid colors explode against the dark sky, have you ever thought about what fireworks are made of? Many of the bright colors that make fireworks so exciting are actually derived from metals. For example, Paris Green has a picturesque name and provides fireworks with a vibrant blue-green hue; however, it is really copper acetoarsenite, a toxic chemical. By law in the US, “fireworks must not contain arsenic sulfide, arsenate, and arsenite”. Generally, fireworks with more than 100 ppm of total arsenic (As) may be flagged for a sales ban in the US.

Brooks Applied Labs tests a wide variety of sample types! When we recently tested fireworks for As using the state-of-art Agilent 8800 ICP-QQQ-MS, we were able to show that historical results from another laboratory using older ICP-OES technology significantly over-estimated the As concentrations. Contact us for any type of specialty metals testing you might need!

A Better Way to Measure Cr(VI)

While the standard technique for detecting hexavalent chromium, or Cr(VI), has improved over the years with the addition of ion chromatography (IC) coupled to UV/visible spectrophotometry, the EPA published methods still rely upon reaction-based chemistry which are prone to interferences and varying reaction kinetics in complex matrices. Any experienced analytical chemist will tell you that direct measurement of a contaminant is always preferable to relying upon the reaction of the target analyte with another chemical for accurate quantitation. Since there is no EPA method that utilizes direct measurement for Cr(VI), most environmental professionals believe that UV-Vis is the best the labs can do, however this is simply not true.

For decades, Cr(VI) has been classified as a carcinogen when inhaled as dust or particulate, making it a problematic worker safety hazard potentially affecting over 500,000 individuals per year. Because of its extensive use in dyes, wood preservatives, anti-corrosion products, and formation during electroplating, it is not hard to find incidences of contamination in the natural environment as well. The ability to detect hexavalent chromium at trace levels and free from common interferences like organic acids, molybdenum, iron, and other elements, is crucial to the success of the project.

By coupling IC to ICP-MS, the most widely accepted technique for accurate measurement of trace metals in complex matrices, not only can BAL achieve a direct measurement of Cr(VI) and separate out interferences, the achievable detection limits are in many cases two orders of magnitude lower than the most recent published EPA methodology. By virtually eliminating potential bias in the data, BAL’s method for measuring Cr(VI) ensures that remedial investigations and determinations of monitoring exceedances are based upon the best available science and superior data quality. Contact us today to learn more or to get a customized list of our current MDL/MRL’s for your project.

The Importance of Clean Sampling Equipment

Accurate data is essential for effective decision-making. Whether evaluating if food or water is safe for consumption, a site requires environmental cleanup, an industrial wastewater meets a discharge requirement, or a pharmaceutical ingredient is of sufficient purity, high quality representative data must be collected to ensure that appropriate decisions are made and costly mistakes are avoided.

While applying an appropriate analytical method to samples is necessary for generating accurate results, by itself it is not sufficient. Collecting and storing samples appropriately, in a manner to prevent inadvertent contamination, is just as essential. After all, even state-of-the-art analytical techniques cannot correct for random biases introduced during sample collection. Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) has extensive experience consulting with clients on proper sample collection techniques for trace metals and offering ultra-clean, pre-tested sampling equipment to support your project needs.

Avoiding common sources of contamination is an important first step when sampling. BAL’s experienced staff can provide guidance on which types of equipment to use and which to avoid. Certain materials have a higher risk of being contaminated with the analytes of interest (e.g., metals in colored plastics or in many types of glass) and, therefore, should be avoided when possible.

Verifying that the equipment used for sample collection and storage are fit-for-purpose is just as critical. BAL can ensure that your equipment meets your data quality objectives by cleaning it in our Equipment Decontamination Clean Room. This portion of our laboratory is fed by HEPA-filtered air and contains large vats of nitric and hydrochloric acids that are used for cleaning a variety of supplies, including sample containers, carboys, tubing, filters, and bailers. You name it, we most likely can clean it!

Our rigorous cleaning processes involve soaking items in acid for several days, followed by testing to demonstrate they are certified clean down to BAL’s ultra-low reporting limits. Upon request, BAL can even provide Certificates of Analysis to document that supplies are clean for trace metals use. Because these processes can take days to weeks to complete, depending on the number and type of supplies required, we strongly recommend contacting us early in your project setup. Whatever industry you work for or with, Brooks Applied Labs can help your project start with success!