Common Mistakes by the Lab Series: The Pain of Contaminated Squeeze Bottles

Ugh…I think we can all agree that the worst thing that can happen when testing high profile samples is losing an extract due to phthalate contamination.  Whether you are extracting 525.2 or 625.1 samples, phthalates can ruin your day and wreak great havoc, causing false positives!  We wonder where they all come from and how they got in the extract in the first place because we try our best to make sure our lab supplies and instruments are clean.  As we all know though…phthalates are literally everywhere floating around in the air and settling on surfaces.  However, I am here to talk about one place in particular: solvent squeeze bottles.  We take extra precautions when refilling our squeeze bottles, but there is always the potential of introducing phthalates into them if they are not refilled or used properly.

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How to plan for dirty samples for both extraction and analysis

When juggling the responsibilities of working in a sample preparation lab as well as working as an analyst, it is very easy to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of samples. There is no situation “more frustrating” then when you have a bunch of wastewater samples that need to be extracted and analyzed ASAP and there is that one sample that is so much more challenging to extract than the others. After struggling all-day-long, you finally get the batch of rush samples set up to run on your gas chromatography (GC) system overnight only to come in the next morning to find that your mid and closing check standards are low and the data is effectively useless!

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Myth Busters: Smaller Sample Volumes

EPA Method 1664B

Have you ever had days of extracting oil and grease samples and thought to yourself “there must be an easier way to work with wastewater samples”? Whether you run oil and grease samples by liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) or by solid-phase extraction (SPE) it can be challenging at times to efficiently extract 1-liter samples due to the sample matrix. Wastewater is challenging and can be very complicated and contain many types of particulates and or detergents. The makeup of the sample not only interferes with efficient extractions due to matrix issues (such as emulsions) but can also cause slow flow rates.

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Simplifying Water Extractions with SPE – One Matrix, One Method Extraction

Have you ever thought to yourself I wish there was one way to effectively extract all of our aqueous samples?  For instance, there are several methods available to extract aqueous samples, such as extraction method 3510 liquid-liquid extraction (LLE), method 3520 continuous liquid-liquid extraction (CLLE), and method 3535 solid-phase extraction (SPE).  Wouldn’t it be more convenient to use one extraction method within the lab for most if not all of your aqueous extractions?

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Overcoming drying and concentrating bottlenecks in the lab

Working in an environmental lab requires a lot of concentration, both mentally and for the samples that you are working with. When New England finally begins to thaw and local companies rush to get their samples completed, a bottleneck that is usually experienced is the drying and concentration of so many samples.  This bottleneck is partly due to ensuring that samples are extracted within their holding times. There have been many times I have had to multitask while concentrating samples on the TurboVap® classic, leading to some extra work when that rare sample was overconcentrated.  Many of my past coworkers brought up the challenge they faced with the extraction of water and soils. In my opinion, the bigger issue was drying and concentrating.  My main complaint with these steps was it was never efficient enough and I always had to baby each step so that all of my hard work (shaking the sample) did not go to waste.  What I strived for most in the lab was an efficient and streamlined workflow for this part of the process.

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How does your sample prep change for LC/MS vs GC/MS

When preparing your extracts for analysis, it is important to know which instrument to use and why you should be using that specific one.  Of course, we know that each EPA method dictates which analysis instrument must be used within each method, however, we will be determining why that option was chosen in the first place in this blog post! Continue reading How does your sample prep change for LC/MS vs GC/MS

Reusable vs single-use disk holders – Which is best-suited for your application?

Have you ever thought to yourself am I using the best solid phase extraction disk offering for my application? Or can our prep lab turn samples around more efficiently if we choose a different SPE disk platform such as a single-use disk holder instead of cleaning our reusable holders? Those are just a few questions I receive when working with sample prep solutions with customers when SPE disks are brought up in the conversion.

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Automating EPH Fractionation in the Lab

Anyone familiar with Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH)  methods such as those developed by Massachusetts DEP, New Jersey DEP, or one of the other various state agencies that regulate EPHs is familiar with the long and grueling process of fractionation. These methods require you to split the initial sample extract into two distinct fractions, the aromatic and aliphatic portions, which allow you to better characterize hydrocarbons that may be affecting the environment (for more info read out previous blog post). It is most commonly achieved through a manual method which is driven by only gravity that can cause quite a bottleneck in the lab. This process can be particularly finicky requiring you to determine the exact volumes needed so that you do not elute one fraction’s compounds into the wrong fraction by mistake. On top of this, the traditional procedure involves the use of gravity to elute the fractions through a cartridge which requires a lot of hands-on time to ensure that the cartridge does not go dry and that it is moved at the correct time. All in all, this process can cause many a headache when it does not run smoothly.

Biotage Extrahera

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What does gas vortex shearing do in evaporation? Why should I care?

It is question and answer time and we are starting with TurboVap® evaporators and their use in an environmental lab.  The TurboVap® evaporation system by design utilizes a patented gas vortex shearing technology. You may be asking yourself, “what does that mean?” I know I did when I first heard about it!  Read on to learn more about what this does for your lab evaporation.

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Why are my phenol recoveries low on my EPA Method 8270/625.1 extractions?

Do you have issues seeing acceptable recovery of your phenols?  I know I do.  These compounds can be challenging to recover and quantitate, and are also found just about everywhere!  Read on to learn a couple of fun facts about phenols, but first, let’s explain why phenols can be difficult to work with.

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