To Be or Not to Be Water Miscible

“Oh my!  This is crystal clear!” – said nobody who has ever read through an EPA Method.

For anyone who processes samples in an EPA-regulated laboratory, you know that these methods can be very specific in some spots, and incredibly vague in others.  The complexity worsens if you’re following one method for sample cleanup and another method for sample preparation and data collection.  Consult this handy infographic to make sure you’re following the right methods for sample cleanup, processing and analysis.

Continue reading To Be or Not to Be Water Miscible

Spooky Stories or Laboratory Mishaps?

“There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch.” – Robert Brault

It’s Halloween!  I assume you’ve carefully assembled your favorite movie character, comic book superhero or animal costume for a night of spooky fun.  If you’re me, this is the day you get to wear your superhero cape out in public.  As an applications chemist, I consider myself to be a bit of a superhero – but a humble one, as I wear my cape underneath my t-shirt and lab coat.  I consider myself to be a superhero when I’m able to use my background and my experiences to think quickly on my feet and help troubleshoot challenges that chemists face all the time.  It’s one of the best parts of my job and I’m thrilled each time I get to wear my cape – metaphorically speaking.

Continue reading Spooky Stories or Laboratory Mishaps?

Are You Contaminating Your Samples During Evaporation?

“Water in my extracts again?!?!”

How many of you have been in that position?  You’ve worked hard to extract your samples, you’ve dried your extracts to remove the last droplets of water from your organic solvent – only to add that water back in during your evaporation step!  There are fewer frustrating situations than losing a set of extracts in this manner.

If you’re like me, you work hard, follow all the precautionary step-by-step procedures to carefully produce extracts in a timely fashion.  It’s frustrating to think that a whole day’s work can be ruined with just a few milliliters of water.  When you see the water, you make an attempt to remove it and save your extracts, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll work.  Is there any way to avoid this?

Continue reading Are You Contaminating Your Samples During Evaporation?

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…

Continue reading UCMR 5 – Will PFAS Make an Appearance?

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.

Continue reading In Defense of Methylene Chloride

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.

Continue reading Environmental Pollution – Are We All Doomed?

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

Everything You Wanted to Know About EPA Method 8270 But Were Afraid to Ask

On the surface, EPA Method 8270 seems pretty straightforward.  The first version of this method was published over a decade ago and many environmental labs are processing samples according to the guidelines in this method.  The EPA summarizes the goals of the method in a single sentence on their website:

“This method [is] for analysis of solid, non-drinking water, drinking water and/or wipe samples containing select semi-volatile organic compounds.”

Continue reading Everything You Wanted to Know About EPA Method 8270 But Were Afraid to Ask

6 Changes to EPA Method 8270 That You May Not Be Aware Of

The U.S. EPA monitors a variety of compounds that pose public health risks when they are present in our air, soil or water and they have spent decades publishing methods to help us extract and quantify those compounds.  The 8000 Series EPA Methods describe the extraction and analysis of contaminants in groundwater and Method 8270 specifically covers semi-volatile compounds.  The EPA has been monitoring semi-volatile compounds in solid waste, soils and groundwater for almost 40 years, and Method 8270 has undergone several revisions during that time.  For example, revision C allowed air samples to be included in the list of sample matrices that can be analyzed under this method.

Continue reading 6 Changes to EPA Method 8270 That You May Not Be Aware Of