206-632-6206 info@brooksapplied.com


Tip of the Month:

What are BAL’s Data Qualifiers?

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. Please see narrative for explanation.
J Detected by the instrument, the result is > the MDL but ≤ the MRL. Result is reported and considered an estimate.
J-1 Estimated value. A full explanation is presented in the narrative.
M Duplicate precision (RPD) was not within acceptance criteria. Please see narrative for explanation.
N Spike recovery was not within acceptance criteria. Please see narrative for explanation.
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.
Z Holding time and/or preservation requirements not established for this method; however, BAL recommendations for holding time were not followed. Please see narrative for explanation.


What different arsenic species can BAL measure?

The most common forms of arsenic that BAL quantifies on a regular basis are arsenite (As3+), arsenate (As5+), inorganic arsenic, organic arsenic, monomethylarsonic acid (MMAs), and dimethylarsinic acid (DMAs). The full list of arsenic species available for testing can be found below:

  • Arsenite (As(III) or As3+)
  • Arsenate (As(V) or As5+)
  • Total Inorganic Arsenic (the sum of arsenite and arsenate)
  • Total Organic Arsenic (total arsenic minus total inorganic arsenic)
  • Total Arsenic (representing all forms of arsenic)
  • Monomethylarsonic acid (MMA or MMAs)
  • Dimethylarsinic Acid (DMA or DMAs; aka cacodylic acid)
  • Trimethylarsine oxide (TMAO)
  • Tetramethylarsonium
  • Thioarsenicals (multiple forms)
  • Arsenobetaine (AsB)
  • Arsenocholine (AsC)
  • Arsenosugars (S- and P-forms)
  • Arsenolipids
  • Hexafluoroarsenate (AsF6)
  • Roxarsone (aka 4-hydroxy-3-nitrobenzenearsonic acid or 3-Nitro)
  • 3-Amino-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid
  • 4-Hydroxy phenylarsonic acid
  • p-Arsanilic acid (aka 4-Aminophenylarsonic acid)
  • Nitarsone
  • Phenylarsonic acid
  • And others – contact us to learn more!

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 Brooks Applied Labs do Cannabis Testing?

Unfortunately, no, Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) cannot provide testing services for metals in cannabis and cannabis products. We are located in Washington State, and the way that testing labs for cannabis are regulated in our state precludes us from being able to obtain a Washington State Certified Testing Lab license unless we can perform the entire scope of testing services required. As a specialty trace metals analytical laboratory, BAL does not perform testing services for parameters such as cannabinoid potency and mycotoxins. In addition, BAL is not eligible to receive a State of Washington Marijuana Research License due to our close proximity to a school and public park. Despite maintaining ISO 17025 accreditation for heavy metals in plants and food, we are not able to obtain a state license to receive cannabis and cannabis products at our facility.


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.
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!
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!
Does BAL maintain state-specific accreditations?
BAL maintains national accreditation with our primary NELAP accreditation through Florida. We also have ISO 17025, DoD, and several state-specific certifications. For a detailed list of our current scopes of accreditations and to download copies of the accreditation certificates, click here. If your project requires an accreditation that is not listed, please contact us.


Can Methylmercury be Measured in Soil and Sediment Samples?
While there have been several publications detailing and comparing various extraction procedures for methylmercury analysis of soil and sediment samples, there are no promulgated EPA methods or consistent guidance. Brooks Applied Labs uses a proprietary extraction, followed by analysis of the extract using gas chromatography cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (GC-CVAFS). Our method for methylmercury analysis of soil and sediment samples has been applied to thousands of samples over the past three decades with demonstrated efficiency, accuracy, and precision. Brooks Applied Labs maintains numerous accreditations for this method, including NELAP and ISO 17025. For more information, contact us!
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.


Does BAL Support CGMP Validation Studies?
The quality and efficacy of drug development and manufacturing are supported through properly designed validation procedures in support of the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations. BAL has supported multiple CGMP studies and has experience supporting method validation in accordance with internal protocols as well as conformance to ICH, ISO 17025, and FDA GLP/GMP requirements.

Pricing and Quotation

Who do I Contact for Current 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!
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!

Quality Assurance

Why should BAL run Totals along with Speciation?
Comparing the sum of the speciation results to the total metal concentration for a sample is one of the most important quality control (QC) assessment used for metals speciation analyses. When the sum of the species matches up well with the total metal result, then you have a higher confidence in both analyses as well as in the assumption that nearly all species of metal in the sample are accounted for. If the sum of the species is much lower than the total concentration, this allows you to better interpret your data and identify what form the “missing” species might be. If the sum of the species is much higher than the total metal result, then you have an opportunity to investigate for errors and potential corrective action.

At BAL, we always encourage our clients to collect data on total metal concentration whenever speciation analytical services are performed. And, we strongly encourage that the total metal analysis be performed at BAL (instead of using historical data or data from a different laboratory). Why? The reduction of analytical variability plays a critical role in achieving optimal data quality. Although multiple labs may be accredited for the same analytical method, laboratory practices, from sample collection to analysis to data calculation, can vary significantly from lab-to-lab. BAL utilizes the some of the most innovative analytical instrumentation available for metals analysis and achieves detection limits that are the lowest in the industry.

BAL’s staff is here to help you select the best technique to ensure the quality and defensibility of your data. We strongly encourage you to contact us to discuss your project needs before collecting samples.

How can our clients impact BAL’s data quality?

One of the most important ways that our clients can have a direct impact on the quality of the data produced by Brooks Applied Labs (BAL) is to be great communicators! When our clients provide their BAL project manager with details regarding the specifics of the sample matrix and expected analyte concentration ranges (if known), it is very useful to our chemists in helping them determine the ideal sample handling, dilution factor, spiking levels, and interference reduction steps necessary to achieve the best possible data quality that will meet our clients’ objectives.


What do These Really Mean? MDL, DL, LOD, MRL, and LOQ

The method detection limit (MDL) is the smallest concentration of an analyte that can be measured with 99% confidence that the value is not zero. At the MDL, the false positive rate is 1% (i.e., there is only a 1% chance that the method will detect an analyte that is not present in the sample). This is also sometimes referred to as the detection limit (DL).

The NELAC Institute (TNI) defines the MDL and the limit of detection (LOD) as equivalent to each other. However, the Department of Energy / Department of Defense Quality Systems Manual (DOD/DOE QSM) specifies a different definition for the LOD: The LOD is the smallest concentration of an analyte that can be measured with 99% confidence that the value is a detect or different from the background level. At the LOD, the false negative rate is 1% (i.e., there is only a 1% chance that the method will not detect an analyte that is present above the LOD). At BAL, the LOD is used only for reporting work under the DOD/DOE QSM.

The method reporting limit (MRL) is the smallest concentration of an analyte that can be quantitatively determined with stated, acceptable precision and accuracy. The MRL cannot be lower than the lowest calibration standard. The MRL is between 2 times and 10 times the MDL, depending on the method. The MRL is often referred to as the limit of quantitation (LOQ), and these terms are considered equivalent.

What are the differences between our Level II, III, and IV reports?
Our three standard report packages are summarized here. We can also support custom data packages and deliverables, so please just contact us if you have special reporting requirements for your project!
What do BAL’s Data Qualifiers Mean?
Each of BAL’s Level II or higher reports will define any data qualifiers used on the Report Information page. However, our commonly applied qualifiers are as follows:

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. Please see narrative for explanation.
J Detected by the instrument, the result is > the MDL but ≤ the MRL. Result is reported and considered an estimate.
J-1 Estimated value. A full explanation is presented in the narrative.
M Duplicate precision (RPD) was not within acceptance criteria. Please see narrative for explanation.
N Spike recovery was not within acceptance criteria. Please see narrative for explanation.
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.
Z Holding time and/or preservation requirements not established for this method; however, BAL recommendations for holding time were not followed. Please see narrative for explanation.

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 has some of the lowest detection limits commercially available to our clients. Contact Us to get a customized list of our current MDL/MRL’s for your project.

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.

How low can BAL measure hexavalent chromium in water and solids?
Brooks Applied Labs’ method detection limit (MDL) for Cr(VI) in waters is 0.003 µg/L, which is  nearly 10 times lower than the California Public Health Goal of 0.02 µg/L set in 2011.  For soils and sediments, our MDL is 0.003 mg/kg (or 3ppb).

Beyond achieving these low detection limits for hexavalent chromium, Brooks Applied Labs’ proprietary IC-ICP-MS methodology for Cr(VI) is also less prone to interferences than standard colorimetric approaches, as described in more detail here.  We retain both NELAP and ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation for this method as well.

If you need testing for hexavalent chromium, please contact us today to find out how we can help!

Which Electronic Data Deliverables (EDD) does BAL offer to our clients for free?
Currently, we offer over 24 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.

Sample Collection and Handling

How long can I store my BAL containers?

This is actually not an easy question to answer as we have multiple types of analyses with different container and preservation requirements.

We recommend receiving your containers from BAL at least a week before your planned sampling event. Containers with preservatives already added will likely have a shorter ideal storage time than unpreserved containers. We recommend storing the containers in the BAL packaging (double-bagged in the cooler or shipping box) in a place that is away from potential contaminants (e.g., cigarette smoke, exhaust, etc.). If your bottle order contains reagent water for the collection of field blanks or equipment blanks, please note this should not be stored long-term (there may be an expiration date noted on the bottle).

If there are any questions or concerns about your containers, please contact your BAL Project Manager.

Can I use Blue Ice to Keep my Samples Cold?

No. Blue Ice will not effectively keep samples at the proper temperature for the analyses. 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. Please ensure the bags of ice are sealed well! If a cooler is leaking water, the courier (e.g., FedEx or UPS) may refuse to deliver it!

For more information on handling samples, contact us or review our Preservation Table.

Can I Wear Sunscreen when Collecting Samples?

It depends. When collecting samples for ultra-trace level metals, it’s important to be aware of the type of sunscreen and other products you are wearing. For example, if your sunscreen contains high levels of zinc oxide, aluminum oxide, or titanium oxide (common components of physical block type sunscreens), and you are collecting samples for trace-level Zn, Al, and/or Ti, cross-contamination is a risk. To reduce the risk of contamination, wash hands and arms well prior to sampling and avoid use of products with main ingredients that contain the metals you are testing your samples for (use sunscreens with chemical barriers or wear sun protective clothing), and always wear clean-room gloves when collecting samples.

What is Trace Clean Sampling?

Trace Clean Sampling is the implementation of EPA Method 1669, also known as “Clean Hands/Dirty Hands”, sample collection procedures in concurrence with EPA 1600-series analytical methods for low-level metals and metals speciation. During the development of these methods, the EPA found that one of the greatest difficulties in obtaining reliably accurate data for metals at low-level concentrations was due to sample contamination. Therefore, samples to be analyzed by any of the low-level metals 1600-series analytical methods must also be collected according to the procedures described in EPA Method 1669. EPA Method 1669 requires special procedures to minimize and monitor for contamination, including the use of ultra-clean pre-tested sample collection containers and other field-sampling equipment, a two-person sample collection procedure (“clean hands/dirty hands”), and the collection of field quality control samples (equipment blanks, field blanks, field duplicates, etc.).

For a detailed overview of EPA Method 1669 “Clean Hands/Dirty Hands” download our Environmental Sampling for Low Level Trace Metals informational brochure.

Find out more about our EPA Method 1669 “Clean Hands/Dirty Hands” clean sampling training and consulting provided by our experienced sampling consultants!

Can BAL Provide Certified-Clean Sampling Equipment?

Yes! An essential step in developing a sampling and analysis plan is to provide evidence that the equipment being used for sample collection is free from contamination that impact the accuracy of the analytical results. Brooks Applied Labs provides services for the cleaning and testing of a wide-range of sample collection equipment (bottles, tubing, filters, etc.). In addition, BAL can provide a certificate of analysis (upon request) demonstrating that the sampling equipment has tested clean to levels that will ensure that the data quality objectives are met.

Do my Samples have to be Handled Anoxically?
If speciation or fractionation analyses are included in your scope of work, then careful consideration must be given to the conditions where the samples will be collected from. If the environment being sampled is reducing or anoxic in nature, oxygen exposure could induce molecular conversion of the target analytes or other matrix components, resulting in misleading data being applied for scientific decision-making. Therefore, depending on the matrix type and the specific analyses requested, samples may have to be handled anoxically during field-collection in addition to during sample preparation and analysis at the laboratory. Speak to a member of the BAL Technical Services Team or your BAL Project Manager if you have questions about how to properly collect your samples or whether they will require special handling at the lab.
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.
How do I Best Keep my Samples Cold?
For analyses requiring samples to be kept cold (0 – 4 °C) until lab preservation and/or analysis, samples containers should either be packed on ice or immediately refrigerated after collection. For shipment to BAL, the containers should be packed with an abundant amount of ice. Double-bag the ice to prevent leakage into the cooler – if a cooler is leaking water, the courier (e.g., FedEx or UPS) may refuse to deliver it! Do not use “blue ice” as it will not effectively keep samples at the proper temperature for the analyses.

For more information on handling samples, contact us or review our Preservation Table.

Can I make an anoxic glove box in the field?
There are several options for collecting samples anoxically in the field, including setting up a standard laboratory glovebox or using one of the many portable glove boxes / bags that are commercially available. However, these more traditional options generally require a cylinder of inert gas, which can be cumbersome to use in the field.

If these more traditional options will not work for your sampling event, a relatively inexpensive anoxic chamber may be quickly assembled in the field using a large, empty cooler and some dry ice. Dry ice is frequently available at supermarkets and can ideally be purchased the day that the samples will be collected. The dry ice should be placed to cover the bottom of the large cooler, and then water should be carefully added to the cooler to submerge the dry ice approximately halfway. The dry ice will begin to sublime to gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2), which will displace any oxygen in the cooler because it is heavier than air. Once the cooler has been completely filled with the CO2 “blanket,” anoxic sample collection or manipulation may occur beneath the CO2 layer. As with any anoxic procedure, care should be taken to first purge any equipment that may contain oxygen (e.g., tubing or bottles) before sample collection takes place.

If you have any additional questions about how to properly collect your samples, please feel free to contact us directly!

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 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).
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!
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.
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

How should I pack my samples?
When shipping samples, you’ll want to prevent potential leakage of samples or breakage of sample containers by packing your cooler (or box) in such a way that samples cannot move around. For glass containers, use plenty of bubble wrap to prevent breakage. If wet ice is used for keeping samples cool, double bag the ice to prevent any leakage into the cooler. We have found that packing samples with plenty of double-bagged wet ice is more effective at keeping samples at the desired temperature, compared to the use of blue ice packs. If your shipping department requires an absorbent material to be included in the package, always avoid loose material such as vermiculite; absorbent padding is preferred.
What is BAL's Holiday Schedule?
BAL Holiday HoursBrooks Applied Labs is closed for the following Holidays:
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Thanksgiving Day
Christmas Day
New Year’s Day

Please check with your shipping company and contact your BAL Project Manager to discuss options if you expect to collect samples around these dates.
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.
Did BAL's Shipping Address Change?

Our current address is listed here, but is also at the top of the chain-of-custody (COC) forms provided to you by your BAL point-of-contact.  Updated COC forms may also be downloaded from our website under the Forms & Other Downloads section.

When in doubt, please reach out to your account or project manager to confirm where to send your samples!


What is the recommended preservation for selenium speciation in waters?
Water samples to be characterized for selenium speciation should be field-filtered (0.45µm) into high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles. The collected samples should then be placed in a cooler containing sufficient ice to maintain a sample temperature of 4°C and shipped to arrive at our laboratory within 24 hours of collection. No chemical preservation should be used, as this may induce molecular conversion of the selenium species present in the sample.

If samples cannot be shipped to arrive within at least 48 hours after collection (e.g., due to the remoteness of the sampling location), then it is generally preferable to freeze the samples immediately after filtration. In this case the samples should then be shipped to stay frozen until received at our laboratory.

BAL staff is here to help ensure your samples are collected appropriately and can provide customized guidance to fit your needs. Please contact us before starting your next project!

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

How is bioavailability different from bioaccessibility when used in an environmental science context?
The term “bioavailability” has been applied somewhat arbitrarily depending on the industry and context in which it is used, and defining these terms can be complicated. To limit confusion, it has been proposed by several members in the environmental research community to differentiate bioavailability from bioaccessibility, especially in terms of contaminated soils and sediments. According to their point of view, when the contaminant is freely available for cellular uptake from the soil at a given point in time, it is considered bioavailable. When a contaminant concentration could potentially be available to cross the cell membrane of an organism in the future (assuming the organism has access to the contaminant), it is considered bioaccessible. See the October 2017 newsletter for a more in-depth discussion.

For more information on handling samples, contact us.

When does Cadmium act like a Cow?
The quantitation of nearly all stable isotopes of cadmium (108Cd, 110Cd, 111Cd, 112Cd, 113Cd, 114Cd, and 116Cd) can be affected by a molybdenum oxide (MoO) interference. This means that if your samples have high concentrations of molybdenum, there is a very good probability your cadmium results are biased high. At BAL we understand the chemical and physical properties of each element we analyze for and apply the appropriate interference reduction technologies, ensuring our clients can be confident that the data reported to them is of the highest quality possible.
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’s the Best Method 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 and matrix separation 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. In addition, BAL’s stellar R&D Team has developed modifications to this method to allow for the low-level quantification of additional metals in seawater not listed in EPA Method 1640 (for example: Selenium). Consequently, ultra-low detection limits can be achieved and small differences in metals concentrations can be determined. Contact Us to get a customized list of our current MDL/MRL’s for your next seawater project.
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.
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!