Contaminants Everywhere

If you are processing environmental samples then you’ve probably dealt with contamination at some point.  If you haven’t, then you should be congratulated for creating the only laboratory on Earth that has ever been completely free of all sources of contamination!  There are many (in some cases, many many many) sources of contamination and the severity of your contamination issues can vary significantly depending on what types of samples you run, the cleanliness of your laboratory, the systems that are running, and the care with which samples are being collected, stored, prepared, run and disposed of.

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Simplified BPA Analysis

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the world – approximately 4 million metric tons annually.  In recent years, BPA has received a lot of negative attention.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a plastic item in the store that didn’t have a “BPA free” marking on it.  These labels are for good reason, though, as BPA has been found to produce negative hormonal effects within the body.  BPA is a chemical that mimics estrogen and disrupts the endocrine system, which can lead to developmental disorders, thyroid issues, diabetes and even reproductive organ cancers.  BPA is so prevalent because it has many uses in polymer chemistry.  First and foremost, BPA is used as a monomer in the production of polycarbonate, a very hard thermoplastic which has countless applications, including: water bottles, baby bottles, CDs, DVDs, eyeglass lenses and many more.

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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.

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Is the Ocean Floor Dissolving?

Since oceans cover roughly two thirds of the Earth, and since oceans can demonstrate signs of ecosystem health and climate change, the U.S. EPA has watched the ocean for changes in their physical property for many years. From sea level height to ocean temperature to coastal flooding occurrences to surface temperature, the EPA has closely monitored changes in these properties as an indicator of climate change.

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OH NO! NOT PEANUT BUTTER TOO!

As a child, peanut butter was a staple in our household. It was an easy meal for us “latchkey kids” who would come home from school to an empty house, starving. I would grab the old Wonder Bread and whip together a thick, 2-inch peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, head to the living room to watch the afternoon programs that my parents had prohibited like Dark Shadows.

Oh, the good old days!

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Surefire Ways to Avoid Fat Gain During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again – avoiding the Thanksgiving “Fatberg”

Thanksgiving is that special time of year that we gather together with family and friends to give thanks and experience traditions that are carried on through generations. Our Thanksgiving meal consists of: roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and homemade cranberry sauce. We also serve the not-so-customary stuffed artichokes – a family favorite, passed down from my Italian grandparents. Continue reading Surefire Ways to Avoid Fat Gain During the Holidays

National Chemistry Week

If you’re like me, you’ve spent National Chemistry Week drinking from your coffee mug that’s shaped like a beaker, you’ve been cooking with the spices you store in test tubes, you’ve been wearing your t-shirts with periodic tables printed on them and you’ve been telling your best chemistry jokes.

Originally known as National Chemistry Day back in 1987, the American Chemical Society (ACS) created this even to bring awareness of the importance of chemistry in our day-to-day lives. The holiday has since been expanded to a full week and has been celebrated during the fourth week in October since 1989. To focus activities and celebrations for the holiday, the ACS assigns a theme each year. This year’s theme is “Chemistry is Out of This World!”

While National Chemistry Week runs from Oct 21-27, Mole Day is specifically celebrated on Oct 23 from 6:02 am to 6:02 pm. It’s a very specific window to celebrate the holiday, but there’s a reason. If you’re not sure what the reason is, write out the time and date using only numerical representation. Still scratching your head? Read on!

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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!

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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?”

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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

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