Laboratory Products

Enhancing Environmental Testing

Aug 03 2010

Author: Dr Nicola Vosloo

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Approximately 30 years old, environmental testing is still a relatively young industry. As the sector has developed, it has evolved significantly. Here, Nicola Vosloo, European Market Development Leader, PerkinElmer,
Inc. explores the latest developments in this industry and considers how commercial testing companies are rising to emerging challenges.

Increasingly, environmental testing is outsourced to third party contract testing laboratories. For these companies, ensuring the highest quality analytical services is vital in order to gain a competitive advantage. Sample throughput must be optimised to meet the varying project turnaround times requested by clients. To maintain and grow a prominent market position, tangible evidence of high accuracy levels is also essential. Achieving lower limits of detection (LOD) and seeking quality accreditation, now essential for attracting work from prominent clients, are increasingly popular routes to differentiation, as the following worked example demonstrates.

Chemtest is a leading supplier of high quality, fast response analytical services. As the UK’s premier contaminated land testing laboratory, Chemtest is focused on maintaining market leading service levels. Continuous investment in processes and technology ensures optimal reliability and confidence in the company’s results. In the early days of environmental testing, work was carried out by simpler methods due to the less demanding legislation then in force. Customers are now looking for increasingly higher levels of information. In response, Chemtest has adopted more sophisticated analytical techniques, including full speciation analysis. Today, the company uses GC/FID, GC/ECD, GC/MS, ICP/OES and ICP/MS instruments to identify and quantify a wide range of contaminants in soil and water samples.

Regional and local authorities issue their own guidelines concerning environmental sampling and testing within their jurisdiction, which in turn draw upon Environmental Agency (EA) regulations and guidance. In addition, the EA has developed its own standards for the analysis of airborne emissions, soils and waters under its Monitoring Certification Scheme (MCERTS). EA guidance encourages site investigators to use laboratories accredited to MCERTS in preference to unaccredited competitors. It is therefore the role of the environmental testing laboratory to help customers meet these requirements. While existing guidelines do not specify LOD requirements, providing a low LOD is one way in which laboratories can provide the
performance that customers demand.

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