The Chemistry of SPE

New year – fresh start

If you’re like me, you start the new year off with a list of resolutions for the coming months – resolutions to be more fit or to secure a promotion at work or to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you’re trying to improve your health or further your career, these are the types of goals that I like to refer to as getting “back to basics” because they require you to start with a solid foundation which you can build on to achieve success.

Continue reading The Chemistry of SPE

Naphthalene – Are You Ingesting More Than You Realize?

How familiar are you with naphthalene?

If you have ever used mothballs for storing clothing, you are pretty familiar with a compound known as naphthalene. If you are asking questions like “how would I know if I’ve used mothballs?” or “remind me, what do mothballs look like?” then you’ve never spent any significant time around them. If you had, you would vividly remember the smell that hits you like a brick and brings you to your knees.

Continue reading Naphthalene – Are You Ingesting More Than You Realize?

Be the Solution to Soil Pollution

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”

                   -Wendell Berry

If you are like me, you spent yesterday honoring World Soil Day with a variety of research and community activities to acknowledge the importance of this valuable resource. If you live in a colder climate area and the ground is starting to freeze, perhaps your activities were more indoor-focused. That’s OK too.

When you give it some thought, soil is quite an impressive material. In its most simplistic definition, soil is just the Earth’s outer most layer. However, if you dig a little deeper (no pun intended!), soil is the layer of Earth that we depend on in every aspect of our lives.

Soil is what we use to grow our trees and plants which provide us with food to eat and clean air to breathe. It provides us with a stable surface to build our homes and roads. It also stores water and nutrients, provides a nutritious and sustainable environment for billions of organisms, and has the ability to filter toxic contaminants from our surrounding environment. In other words, soil is one of our most precious resources.

“The biggest threat to soil is ignorance and indifference.”

Unfortunately, soil has a finite capacity for retaining contaminants, and decades of industrial pollution, farming activities and improper urban waste disposal have saturated and exceeded the filtering ability of this resource in many parts of the world.  Compounding this issue is the fact that soil pollution is a hidden danger.  People cannot see the direct impact of their contributions, causing many of them to become oblivious to the magnitude and prevalence of this problem.

As the Earth’s population continues to grow – projections indicate our population numbers will reach almost 10 billion by 2050 – people need to be more diligent than ever in protecting our life-sustaining resources. We keep this thought at the forefront of the solutions we provide, so World Soil Day is a great reminder and opportunity for us to continue developing solutions to monitor and protect our soil for generations to come. After all, healthy (contaminant-free) soil could make the difference between a healthy, thriving ecosystem and a starving, barren wasteland.

Let us know how you celebrated World Soil Day in the comments below!

Extracting Perfluorinated Compounds from Drinking Water – Why is it so Challenging?

For the past few years, news reporters have used words like “developing” and “emerging” and “crisis” to describe perfluorinated compounds. When you see adjectives like this, you can’t help but think “how did we not know about these PFC things before now?”

The truth is, these compounds have been produced for decades – some, for over half a century – and their chemical and physical properties are well-known. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond in these compounds makes them heat-, water- and stain-resistant. Continue reading Extracting Perfluorinated Compounds from Drinking Water – Why is it so Challenging?

Paraquat and Diquat Use in Pesticides

If you read one of my earlier posts on pesticide contamination in drinking water,  you may have started to make a mental list of all the compounds you’ve heard or talked about in reference to their use in pesticides. If so, two of those compounds were likely paraquat and diquat.

These compounds are complex dipyridyls but with chemical names like 1,1′-dimethyl-4,4′- bipyridilium dichloride salt and 1,1′-ethylene-2,2′-bipyridilium dibromide salt, I assume you’re like me and refer to them as paraquat and diquat, respectively. Dipyridyls are effective herbicides which is why they are so commonly used to eradicate unruly weeds. Unfortunately, many herbicide products are non-selective and will kill a variety of plants, flowers and grasses along with those pesky weeds.

Continue reading Paraquat and Diquat Use in Pesticides

Changes to EPA Method 625 – How do They Affect You?

With the prevalence of contaminants in wastewater today, it is important to have a method for properly extracting and quantifying those compounds, to allow our wastewater treatment plants to remove them during the treatment process, when and where they need to.

The U.S. EPA has written a number of methods for determining contaminants in wastewater – compounds from organophosphorus pesticides (Method 614.1) to organochlorine pesticides (Method 608.3) to chlorinated hydrocarbons (Method 612) have EPA-published methods for guidance. The method I want to focus on here is that for determining bases, neutrals and acids (Method 625.1) and I’m highlighting it because there’s been a change in how this method can be executed, which could have a significant impact on your laboratory. Curious about what I’m alluding to? Read on!

Continue reading Changes to EPA Method 625 – How do They Affect You?

Pesticide Contamination – Is That Water Safe to Drink?

Have you ever spent the day walking through the woods, paused to take in the natural sights, smells and sounds of a babbling brook or flowing waterfall and thought….“I wonder how many pesticides are in that water?”

I recently experienced this when I escaped from the stress and chaos of real life to spend a day hiking through the woods. I mapped out my route, packed plenty of snacks and water, and tossed my camera (i.e. my iPhone which has a camera) into my backpack, and I was off. I wasn’t far into my hike before I heard the familiar rush of moving water. Excited at the thought of finding a natural stream or brook, I rushed toward the noise until I reached the edge of a bank that overlooked a flowing river. As I took in the breath-taking scenery, I found myself lost in thoughts like “I wonder how polluted this water is?” or “I bet there are pesticides in this water. Is it safe to drink?”

Continue reading Pesticide Contamination – Is That Water Safe to Drink?

Fats, Oils and Grease, Oh My!

If you are unfamiliar with terms like “fatberg” and “FOG,” you might not realize the significance and environmental ramifications of this phenomenon. Your perspective will change if you look through recent news articles where fatbergs have blocked and damaged sewer systems in major cities.

Photo credit: Thames Water

Continue reading Fats, Oils and Grease, Oh My!