Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH) Fractionation and Bottlenecks in the Laboratory

Anyone familiar with EPH methods such as those developed by the Massachusetts or New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is familiar with the long and gruelling process of fractionation. For those unfamiliar, with EPH or Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons it is an extraction that essentially occurs in two distinct parts: the initial extraction & concentration and then the fractionation of that initial extract into the aromatic and aliphatic fractions followed by concentration again.  EPH is a method that replaces the TPH (Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons) or 8015 methods and allows for the calculation of specified carbon ranges giving you a more accurate assessment of potential health risks.

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EPA Methods and the Use of Drying Techniques

Do you ever tire of using sodium sulfate to dry your extracts?  I know I do.  That is why, whenever I get the chance to avoid using it, I do.  The worst experience when using sodium sulfate is when you do not use enough of it, and the sodium sulfate reaches its maximum capacity leading to water breakthrough into your ‘what was supposed to be a dried extract.’  Then, you must dry the extract again with more sodium sulfate.  When you are a high throughput lab, redoing steps is not ideal.  Unfortunately, EPA Methods 525.2 and 525.3 require sodium sulfate drying as the drying technique, to name a couple, but not all EPA methods require sodium sulfate for drying.  That is why when there is an alternative technique available and you are permitted to use it, why not use it?!

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Tackling Emulsions Just Got Easier

Believe it or not, we’re all familiar with emulsions.  Have you ever added food oil to a pot of water while cooking?  That’s an emulsion.  Do you put dressing on your salad?  It should be called salad emulsion – although, that may not have the same edible appeal.  Do you drink milk?  Emulsion.  What about milk?  Butter?  Eggs?  All emulsions.

If we’re referring to emulsions in the laboratory, the examples are different, but the chemistry involved is very similar – as are the mechanisms for breaking them. Continue reading Tackling Emulsions Just Got Easier

10 Facts About Pesticides You Didn’t (Want to) Know

Pesticides have been widely used in the U.S. for decades to combat everything from weeds to insects to bacteria.  These compounds allow farmers to cultivate acres of successful crops and keep food on our dinner tables.  But every chemical poses a risk, so I always like to familiarize myself with the chemicals I’m being exposed to, in order to make informed decisions about the health and safety of me and my family.  Here are a few facts about pesticides I thought I’d share – just in case you’re on the same fact-finding journey I am.

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UCMR 5 – Will PFAS Make an Appearance?

If you’re reading this blog and hoping for a sneak peek at the list of contaminants that will be on the next UCMR list, you’ll want to keep reading…

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An Alternative To n-Hexane For Doing Oil and Grease Extractions

Volatile.  Flammable.  Skin irritant.  Respiratory irritant.  Possibly fatal if swallowed.  For those of you processing samples according to EPA Method 1664B, you’ve seen these hazard descriptions before – on the safety data sheet (SDS) for n-hexane.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with (or have forgotten about) the hazards related to n-hexane, those are just a few.  It also smells unpleasant and could explode if heated.  It’s a relatively unpleasant organic solvent to work with and it begs the question:

Is there an alternative?

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In Defense of Methylene Chloride

If you’re familiar with methylene chloride (which I’m sure you are since it’s one of the most widely used laboratory solvents), you know that it’s developed a reputation for being one of the “bad boys” of the solvent world.  The bad press has certainly been earned.  It’s been attributed to over 60 deaths in the last 4 decades.  It’s also pretty aggressive – exposure to just a few ounces for a few minutes can be enough to cause severe damage or death.  And since it’s a colorless liquid, an innocent-looking spill could be a severely harmful hazard.

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Environmental Pollution – Are We All Doomed?

Have you ever stopped to enjoy a bright, vibrant sunset, only to have that really annoying friend interrupt your thoughts with a comment like “you know you’re just looking at all the pollution in the air, right?”

I used to wonder how someone could focus on pollution while looking at a stunning landscape, but it’s becoming a topic that more and more people are thinking about.

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5 Sources of Phthalate and Adipate Contamination You Probably Didn’t Know About

“Why do I keep seeing background contamination from phthalate and adipate when I do extractions for semi-volatiles?”

This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked when I’m traveling in the field.  It’s an issue I’ve come across in my own lab on occasion and if you can’t find the source of your contamination, it can turn routine application work into a troubleshooting nightmare.  Given how often I’ve seen these compounds cause contamination issues, I thought I’d review some of the most common sources for these. Continue reading 5 Sources of Phthalate and Adipate Contamination You Probably Didn’t Know About

The Hidden Dangers of Organic Solvents

“Our laboratory uses organic solvents every day.  Should we be concerned about solvent exposure?”

I hear this question fairly often and the short and simple answer is: YES.

But if this were a simple yes/no question, I wouldn’t have anything else to say, and this would be the shortest blog post that’s ever been written.

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