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What is Speciation?

What is SpeciationA chemical species is the specific form of an element defined as to isotopic composition, electronic or oxidation state, and/or complex or molecular structure. Speciation analysis is the analytical activities of identifying and/or measuring the quantities of one or more individual chemical species in a sample. Chemical speciation analyses have focused primarily on organic molecules (carbon based) historically, for a good reason. Who would want to eat a piece of coal instead of a nutritious apple? But what about the rest of the periodic table beyond carbon? Every element on the periodic table can exist in different molecular forms that have impact on the world around us. Understanding the concentration and ratios of different chemical species is important for determining toxicity, mobility, bioavailability, effect on treatment options (both from a medical and industrial perspective), as well as many other characteristics. As a greater understanding emerges around the utility of speciation analyses, the idea of making important decisions with just total metals or elemental data is seen as risky and, in some cases, possibly catastrophic to the success of a project or the health of a population. An excellent example is if a blood test shows a patient has elevated arsenic levels, then the physician may apply a treatment to get reduce the concentration of this heavy metal. Speciation analysis would have elucidated that the arsenic is in the form of arsenobetaine and the physician could have questioned the patient as to whether or not they consume a lot of fish. If that was the case, the arsenic would be excreted, naturally, from the patient’s body without deleterious effects. One approach, using total elemental analysis shows there may be a problem, while a more focused approach, speciation analysis, identifies the true risk as well as if treatment is required. Imagine if this example is applied to treating groundwater, making pharmaceuticals products better, altering mining practices, or finding out why an industrial process succeeded or failed. One of the greatest challenges with speciation analyses is that there are very few standardized methods that exist. And, the ones that do exist are mostly based on older technologies and have not kept up with the times. Over the years, Brooks Applied Labs has continued to invest in-house R&D to generate an abundance of new analytical speciation methods spanning much of the periodic table. Bringing advanced analytical technologies to the commercial marketplace requires a deep understanding of the science as well as robust quality systems to ensure maximum defensibility of results. At Brooks Applied Labs, you will find the most advanced speciation capabilities for the greatest number of metals and elements on the periodic table available in any industry. Visit our speciation page for more details.


BAL is On the Road to NEMC

NEMCBrooks Applied Labs’ VP of Operations, Annie Carter, will be very active at next month’s National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC), held August 5-9 in Jacksonville, FL. First, Annie will be presenting in the “Best Practices for Managing Environmental Laboratories” session on the topic of applying Amazon’s leadership principals to the management of an analytical laboratory (view abstract here). Later in the week, Annie will be chairing a session on “Metals Analysis and Remediation”. Feel free to contact Annie if you’d like to connect with her at the conference or request a copy of her presentation.


BAL President/CEO Celebrates 15 Years!

Michelle BriscoeMichelle Briscoe joined Brooks Applied Labs (formerly Brooks Rand Labs) in 2004 as our VP of Analytical Services and Technical Director. In 2013, she ascended to the helm as our President/CEO and went on to successfully lead two companies through a complex merger in 2015. Fifteen years later and with 27 years of experience in the trace metals and metal speciation world, Michelle maintains her enduring commitment to foster a culture of fun and scientific inquisitiveness while leading our amazing crew to produce the highest quality specialty analytical services possible. Congratulations, Michelle – thank you for everything you do to make our company stand out above the rest.


Welcoming Baby Thomas to the BAL Family

The Springer FamilyBrooks Applied Labs’ would like to congratulate Advanced Chemist, Stephen Springer, and his wife Sylvia, on the birth of their new baby boy: Thomas Ferreira Springer. Baby Thomas was born on Wednesday, June 25th, weighing in at just over six pounds. From all of us at BAL, we wish Stephen and Sylvia well as they start this exciting new chapter of their lives!


Shipping Samples to BAL from Outside the US

Shipping Samples

BAL analyzes samples from all over the world on a regular basis. Shipping samples across borders from a foreign country to the US is not uncommon, but there are special regulations and recommended best practices to review prior to shipping samples. Before shipping samples to BAL from outside of the US, always contact your BAL Project Manager to discuss the shipment well ahead of time! If you don’t know who your BAL Project Manager is contact us and we’ll get you in touch with the right person. Information specific to different types of international shipments can be found below.

Shipping Tissues Samples

The following instructions are for clients shipping tissue samples via FedEx to Brooks Applied Labs. If another shipper is used, these instructions may need to be changed.

  1. Create a FedEx Waybill and Commercial Invoice.
  2. Be sure the comment “CONTAINS WILDLIFE. HOLD FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE” needs to be on the FedEx waybill.
  3. Also include on the FedEx Waybill the comments “WILDLIFE – Perishable Tissue samples” and “FWS – Common Name, Species Name, For Testing
  4. On the commercial invoice included the quantity of tissues as well as the scientific names of samples, number of samples, and the country of origin. Also, make sure the comment “WILDLIFE – Perishable Tissue samples” is included.
  5. With the waybill include a copy of our USFW Permit and a copy of the BAL COC.
  6. On the cooler please write somewhere obvious “CONTAINS WILDLIFE” “HOLD FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE“. *It is very important to mark up the cooler appropriately and include all paperwork with the shipment*
  7. Provide your BAL PM with FedEx tracking number(s) at least 48 hrs. prior to shipping along with the COC, copy of the FedEx Waybill, the commercial invoice, and a list of species names and their country of origin. You must also confirm that these species are not threatened or endangered. Your BAL PM will submit this information to FedEx and samples can be shipped on the date you indicated.
Shipping Soil Samples
The following instructions are for clients shipping soils collected outside of the U.S. to BAL. Your Project Manager will ensure that you receive all of the necessary documentation to include with your shipment either by including it with your bottle order or by emailing you electronic copies. When preparing your shipment to BAL please be sure to always:

  1. Address the soil shipment exactly as the address is written on the BAL Soil Permit
  2. Include a copy of the BAL Soil Permit with each cooler in the shipment
  3. Affix a shipping label (PPQ Form 550) on each cooler in the shipment.
    • Make sure that labels are affixed to each cooler. Each label must have a unique Label # (found above the barcode). Do not make multiple copies of the same label to use on future shipments. Contact your Project Manager if additional labels are needed and they will be sent to you as soon as possible.
    • Make sure that the permit number and expiration date on the shipping labels exactly matches the number and expiration date on the BAL Soil Permit. Discrepancies can occur if you still have old labels that were issued with an outdated permit.

Following the above steps will help ensure that your samples do not get held up at inspection.

Other Types of Samples
Migratory Birds – Special permit applies. You must contact BAL prior to shipping.

Hazardous Materials – Special labeling requirements apply. You must contact BAL prior to shipping.


BAL Road Warriors are Out and About!

BAL Road WarriorsEarlier this month, on June 13th, Brooks Applied Labs scientists were presenting at a meeting of the North American Metals Council (NAMC) Selenium Working Group in Calgary. Ben Wozniak (Technical Services Specialist) gave a talk on the Formation and Identification of Methaneselenonic Acid in a Water Treatment Process, while Russ Gerads (Business Development Director) presented on the Application of Solid Phase Speciation Analyses for Selenium Management. Contact us if you would like to know more about either of these topics.


Coming up, July 16th – 18th, Michelle Briscoe (President/CEO) will be heading to Denver to attend the US Department of Energy’s Analytical Services Program (DOE ASP) Workshop. This workshop offers new programmatic changes, best management practices, and lessons learned by DOE employees and the labs that provide the analytical services at many of the DOE sites. Michelle will be participating in a panel discussion to provide feedback to the DOE on the new accreditation program from the laboratory’s perspective.