Environmental Analysis at Pittcon

Contamination and pollution of our air, soil, and water with chemical species resulting from human activities are threats to human health and the environment. Identifying and quantifying substances present in natural environments can give us an insight into the behavior of industry and society, aiding regulatory policy development and enforcement.

Environmental analysis is vital to identify chemical contaminants and monitor their journey though, and effects on, the environment. Pittcon 2018 will feature a symposium on environmental analysis that will discuss the latest analytical techniques and their application to environmental analysis. This article outlines some of the pressing topics in environmental analysis which will be covered at Pittcon 2018.

The Importance of Environmental Analysis

A recent report commissioned by the Lancet on pollution and health found that in 2015 environmental pollution resulted in the premature deaths of nine million people, accounting for 16% of global deaths, and costing trillions of dollars. Environmental pollution is a serious global problem and governments and regulatory bodies around the world are constantly setting up new regulations and targets to try to stem the flow of pollutants and contaminants into our air, water and soil.

Due to increasing global concern regarding pollution, environmental analysis is a rapidly growing, dynamic area of science which is vital for the monitoring of pollution, wastewater, drinking water, and potentially hazardous waste streams. However, environmental analysis is a particularly challenging field as the species present in natural environments vary widely, can be completely unknown, present in low concentrations, difficult to separate from naturally occurring species, or naturally occurring species themselves.

Environmental analysis relies heavily on advanced techniques borrowed from analytical chemistry to study the identity, sources, and fates of chemical and pollutant species. Molecular spectroscopy, atomic spectroscopy, chromatography, mass spectroscopy, electroanalytical methods, thermal methods, and radiochemical methods all find applications in environmental analysis. Adequate methods of environmental analysis are vital to ensure that regulations and targets regarding water treatment, waste disposal, and air emissions are met.

Pittcon 2018 will host a symposium dedicated to environmental analysis. This article outlines some of the areas that will be covered.

The Source of Environmental Contaminants

Pollutants mostly have anthropogenic sources, meaning they come from a range of human activities. Air pollutants such as NOx, O3, H2S, CO, CO2, and SO2, generally originate from industrial emissions, power generation plants, metal processing, combustion, waste incineration, and aerosol sprays.

Water contamination can originate from an extensive range of human activities including mining, industrial chemical processes, agriculture, domestic effluents, transportation, and nuclear activates.

Water is used widely in industrial and domestic processes, both as a solvent and for the cleaning of equipment and products, often leading to the production of large amounts of dirty water that may be contaminated with chemicals. Wastewater produced by industrial processes must be cleaned and analyzed to ensure it is safe before it is discharged. Analysis of industrial wastewater is discussed further in Chapter 4 of this article. Kevin Schug of the University of Texas at Arlington and Matthew Tarr of the University of New Orleans will give talks on analysis of industrial wastewaters at the Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium.

Disinfectants are used widely to remove pathogens from swimming pools, drinking water and wastewater. However, disinfectant by-products (chemicals formed when disinfectants such as chlorine, chloramine, chlorine dioxide, and ozone react with organic matter) are under increasing scrutiny due to their potential detrimental effects on human health. Disinfectant by-product analysis is discussed further in Chapter 2 of this article and will be covered in the environmental analysis symposium at Pittcon 2018, with talks from Jean Boudenne and Tarek Manasfi of Aix-Marseille University.

Susan Richardson from the University of South Carolina will be presenting two symposia at Pittcon 2018; Advances in the Analysis of Disinfection By-Products, and Analytical Chemistry and ACS ANYL – New Measurement Approaches for Environmental Sampling and Measurement.

The Latest Developments in Environmental Analysis

New chemical products, such as e-cigarettes present unique challenges to environmental analysis and regulators. E-cigarettes are widely used as ‘healthier’ alternatives to cigarettes. However, data about the chemicals in e-cigarettes and the vapor they produce is limited. Research so far has identified toxic, carcinogenic, and harmful chemical substances and in e-cigarette aerosols, cartridges, refill liquids and environmental emissions. E-cigarette analysis and emissions are discussed further in Chapter 3 and will be the subject of a talk by John Richie from Penn State University College of Medicine at Pittcon 2018.

Environmental analysis is not only about analyzing potentially harmful contaminants. Wastewater from sewage can contain biomarkers, and residues excreted by people, including metabolites of legal and illegal drugs. Analysis of residues and biomarkers in wastewater, in a process called water epidemiology, can be used to monitor population size, health, behavior, and drug consumption. The Pittcon environmental analysis symposium will include a talk by Kevin Bisceglia of Hofstra University on the use of gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) in wastewater epidemiology.

Due to the vast array of applications of environmental analysis, and the varied nature of the samples and target molecules that are analyzed, a large variety of analytical techniques are used. The Pittcon Expo will feature several leading companies supplying the latest analytical technology. The environmental analysis symposium will feature talks on vibrational spectroscopy, mass spectroscopy and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy for environmental analysis. Speakers include Bruce Chase, Ronald Hites, Guibin Jiang, Chris Le, Gary Siuzdak, Murray Johnston, Vladimar Doroshenko, and Jonathan Reid.

The Pittcon Conference and Expo is the ideal place for researchers and environmental analysts to learn about developments in their field and stay up to date with the latest technology.

Pittcon Tracks

Bioanalytical & Life Science
Biological molecules and xenobiotics (drugs, toxins) and their metabolites; study of biological systems; biosensors; forensic science and toxicology
Cannabis & Psychedelic
Identification, quantitative measurement, extraction, and quality assurance of cannabis-based and psychedelic products
Environment & Energy
Environmental detection and monitoring; energy production and storage; sustainability, climate, and green chemistry; food science/safety and agriculture
Instrumentation & Nanoscience
Instrumentation, detection, and sensors; laboratory information systems, data analysis, and artificial intelligence; characterization and processing of nanomaterials; art and archeology
Pharmaceutical & Biologic
Evaluating chemical composition and properties/activities of medicinal drugs and biologics; high-throughput screening and process control; drug discovery and design; personal care and consumer products
Professional Development
Leadership and power/soft skills; career navigation, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), communication, and entrepreneurship; education and teaching and more

Chapter 1- Wastewater-Based Epidemiology

Wastewater epidemiology involves measuring metabolites, chemicals and/or biomarkers in sewage wastewater to obtain information about a population including population size, behavior, health, and drug consumption.

The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium will feature a talk by Kevin Bisceglia on wastewater epidemiology, while the Pittcon expo will feature all the major suppliers of analytical equipment required for wastewater epidemiology.

Wastewater Epidemiology for Population Analysis

Chemicals that humans consume including medicines, alcohol, caffeine, and illegal drugs are broken down into metabolites, which are removed from the bloodstream by the kidneys and excreted as urine. The body also produces a number of biomarkers, naturally occurring compounds that are excreted in the same way, that are indicative of the body’s current state.

Measuring biomarkers present in urine can give us information about the body and its function. For instance, pregnancy tests detect the presence of hormones in the urine which are characteristic of a pregnant state. Urine tests are also routinely used to detect performance-enhancing drug use in athletes and illegal drug use in the general population.

Metabolites and biomarkers which are excreted from our bodies in urine make their way through the sewage system in wastewater, where their detection can give us valuable information about a population. Wastewater epidemiology has been used to track legal drug use, illicit drug use, population size, behaviors (alcohol use, tobacco use, caffeine consumption, etc.), and health. Wastewater epidemiology can also be used to track drug compliance by comparing the number of patients that have been prescribed a certain drug with the number of patients that are measured to be taking the drug and excreting its metabolites.

Wastewater epidemiology involves three steps. First, raw sewage is collected and analyzed for selected substances. Secondly, concentrations of target residues are compared with the average flow of sewage and divided by the number of people the sewage treatment plant serves, yielding an average excretion rate of a metabolite or biomarker per person, and population drug loads. Functional data analysis can then provide information about geographical and temporal trends in drug consumption.

Wastewater epidemiology provides unbiased, aggregated information about a population. However, there are disadvantages to the technique. The population that is contributing to the sewage can be uncertain, metabolism and excretions can vary between individuals, and it can be difficult to differentiate anthropogenic biomarkers and metabolites from those excreted by other animals.

Best practice protocols from the Sewage Analysis CORe group Europe (SCORE) network are used to reduce uncertainties and increase the credibility of wastewater epidemiology. However, more research is still needed to improve methodologies and integrate methods from drug epidemiology, allowing more legal and illegal drugs to be identified and monitored in this way.

Jeanette van Emon from the EPA, organizer of – Assessing Community-Wide Health Via Sewage Wastewater – symposia, will be giving a presentation at Pittcon 2018 on – An Immunoassay for Measuring 8-Isoprostane in Sewage Wastewater to Gauge Community-wide Health.

Monitoring Illicit Drug Consumption

Monitoring illicit drug use in a population can be particularly challenging as those who take illegal drugs often prefer not to disclose their activities. Detecting the metabolites of illicit drugs in sewage using wastewater epidemiology provides a non-invasive, unbiased way to identify the spectrum of drugs that are consumed by a population and provide geographic and temporal information about illegal drug use.

For example, a study in Australia found that cocaine and MDMA consumption were more common in urban areas compared to rural areas, while methamphetamine consumption was similar in both areas. Such information can be used to assist governments in developing policies to reduce illegal drug use.

Wastewater epidemiology has been applied globally to monitor the use of cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA.

Analyzing Biomarkers and Metabolites in Wastewater

Detecting metabolites and biomarkers requires analysis techniques that can accurately detect and measure molecules that may be present in trace amounts in complex solutions.

Liquid chromatography (LC) and GC are often utilized in combination with mass spectroscopy to identify and quantify target compounds. Care must be taken to develop unbiased and accurate analytical procedures as metabolite and biomarker concentrations can be heavily dependent on environmental factors, sample preparation, and analysis methods. As a result, concentrations of target molecules can often be significantly underestimated.

For example, research aiming to accurately measure the concentration of the main human urinary metabolite of cannabis in wastewater found that filtration and pH adjustment during sample preparation affected the measured concentration of the metabolite and the calculated drug load.

The environmental analysis symposium at Pittcon 2018 will feature a talk by Kevin Bisceglia of Hofstra University on the use of GC-MS in wastewater epidemiology for illicit drug monitoring, and compare factors such as cost, time, robustness and environmental impact with LC methods.

Furthermore, the Pittcon Expo will feature a number of leading companies offering the latest technology in LC-MS and GC-MS for wastewater epidemiology including Bruker, Shimadzu, Peak Scientific, Waters, and Metrohm. Pittcon 2018 is the ideal place to learn more about the potential of wastewater epidemiology and the analytical techniques required to analyze sewage wastewater accurately.

References and Further Reading:

  • ‘Population Normalization with Ammonium in Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: Application to Illicit Drug Monitoring’ Frederic Been, Luca Ross, Christoph Ort, Serge Rudaz, Olivier Delémont, Pierre Esseiva, Environmental Science & Technology, 2014
  • Compared to Traditional Statistical Methods’ Stefania Salvatore, Jørgen Gustav Bramness, Malcolm J. Reid, Kevin Victor Thomas, Christopher Harman, Jo Røislien, PLoS One, 2015
  • ‘Spatial variations in the consumption of illicit stimulant drugs across Australia: A nationwide application of wastewater-based epidemiology’ Foon Yin Lai, Jake O’Brien, Raimondo Bruno, Wayne Hall, Jeremy Prichard, Paul Kirkbride, Coral Gartner, Phong Thai, Steve Carter, Belinda Lloyd, Lucy Burns, Jochen Mueller, Science of the Total Environment, 2016
  • ‘Improving wastewater-based epidemiology to estimate cannabis use: focus on the initial aspects of the analytical procedure’ Ana Causanilles, Jose Antonio Baz-Lomba, Daniel A. Burgard, Erik Emke, Irina González-Mariño, Ivona Krizman-Matasic Angela Li, Arndís S.C. Löve, Ann Kathrin McCall, Rosa Montes, Alexander L. N. van Nuijs, Christoph Ort, José B. Quintana, Ivan Senta, Senka Terzic, Félix Hernandez, Pim de Voogt, Lubertus Bijlsma, Analytica Chimica Acta, 2017
  • ‘Wastewater-based epidemiology for public health monitoring’ Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Lubertus Bijlsma, Sara Castiglioni, Adrian Covaci, Pim de Voogt, Erik Emke, Félix Hernández, Christoph Ort, Malcolm Reid, Alexander L.N. van Nuijs, Kevin V. Thomas, Water & Sewage Journal, 2014
  • ‘Assessing illicit drugs in wastewater – Advances in wastewater-based drug epidemiology’ http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/2273/TDXD16022ENC_4.pdf

Chapter 2- Disinfection By-Products (DBPs) from Water Treatment

Swimming pools, drinking water, and wastewater are commonly treated with disinfectants to remove harmful pathogens. However, disinfectant by-products (DBPs) have recently been recognized as ‘contaminants of emerging environmental concern’ due to their potential detrimental effects on human health. The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium with feature talks on identifying DBPs and determining their origins and toxicities.

Disinfection of drinking water, wastewater, and swimming pools kills bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and algae, which may cause harm to human health. Chlorine, chloramines, chlorine dioxide, and ozone are commonly used in water treatment. However, water treatment with disinfectants can form by-products known as DBPs, many of which are considered toxic. Chlorination of drinking water, wastewater, and swimming water must be optimized to strike a balance between the risk of exposure to pathogens in untreated water and the risk from DBPs in treated water. In the US, the safe drinking water act regulates the presence of pathogens and chemical contaminants including disinfectants and some DBPs in drinking water.

What are Disinfectant By-Products (DBPs)?

DBPs form when disinfectants react with inorganic and organic matter, which is naturally present in the untreated water. As the DBPs formed depends on the disinfectant used, which substances are present in the untreated water, and the conditions during disinfection (such as pH, temperature and disinfectant dose), there is a vast number of potential DBPs. Over 600 different compounds have been identified as DBPs so far, but not all DBP’s are known, and many are not yet well characterized.

In general, disinfection with chlorine produces trihalomethanes (chloroform, bromodichloromethane (BDCM), dibromochloromethane (DBCM) and bromoform), haloacetic acids, and chlorates; chloramine treatment produces chlorites; chlorine oxide treatment produces chlorites and chlorates; and treatment with ozone generates bromates.

Disinfectant by-products are toxic and hazardous to human health. DBPs first became a concern in 1974 when DBPs including chloroform and other carcinogens were found in chlorine-treated natural waters. DBPs can enter the human body via inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion, and they have been found in the blood and breath of swimmers and non-swimmers at indoor swimming pools.

Excessive exposure to trihalomethanes has been linked to liver, kidney, and central nervous system problems, and an increased risk of cancer. Haloacetic acids and bromate have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer, while chlorite exposure may cause central nervous system problems and anemia. Chlorate consumption has been linked to a reduced ability for red blood cells to carry oxygen and kidney failure.

The specific health risks are only known for a few DBPs. Recently discovered iodine containing DBP’s are considered the most hazardous to health, followed by bromine-containing DBPs. Chlorine-containing DBPs are considered the least hazardous.

Susan Richardson from the University of South Carolina will be presenting two Symposia at Pittcon 2018. Advances in the Analysis of Disinfection By-Products – Can GAC Be Used to Control Priority Unregulated DBPs in Drinking Water? And Analytical Chemistry and ACS ANYL – New Measurement Approaches for Environmental Sampling and Measurement – Recent Advances in Analytical Measurements of Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water.

Optimizing Water Treatment

Identifying pathogens and determining the concentrations of organic compounds present in untreated water can enable authorities to make informed decisions about the correct level of water treatment.

Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry has recently revolutionized practices for pathogen identification in water. Systems like the MALDI-Biotyper from Bruker, which will be present at the 2018 Pittcon Expo, can rapidly identify a broad range of bacteria, providing vital information about the level of water treatment required.

To fully understand the formation of DBPs and make informed water-treatment decisions, it is also essential to monitor the naturally occurring organic compounds in untreated water. The MAX300-AIR™ Environmental Gas Analyzer from Extrel, who will be featured at the 2018 Pittcon Expo, provides continual measurement of organic compounds in water streams, enabling informed water treatment practices.

Regulating, Analyzing and Monitoring DBPs

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates some DBPs under the clean water act. Total trihalomethane concentrations in community water systems must be below 80 ppb (µg/L), the total concentration of five haloacetic acids must be below 60 ppb, chlorite levels must be below 1 ppm, and bromate levels must be below 10 ppb. The EPA does not currently regulate chlorate.

The EPA and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have developed a number of analytical methods for the quantification of some DBPs in drinking water. As DBPs cover a large number of different molecules, different analysis methods are required for their quantification. There are approved analytical methods for the quantification of total trihalomethane concentrations, haloacetic acids, bromates, chlorite, and chlorate.

The approved analytical methods use GC, IC (ion chromatography), ICP (inductively coupled plasma), and colorimetric methods to determine DBP concentrations. The 2018 Pittcon Expo will feature a number of leading companies supplying all the technology required for DBP analysis, including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Bruker, Extrel, and Hiden Analytical.

Identifying and Quantifying Unknown DBPs

As the prevalence and identity of all DBPs and their effects are not yet known, data collection on DBP occurrence, frequency and health effects is vital. To assess the formation, identity, and prevalence of DBPs, robust and sensitive analytical methods are required. Monitoring DBPs should be straightforward so that safe drinking water can be guaranteed. However, the vast number of potential DBPs, combined with their low concentrations can make analysis challenging.

Methods including GC-ECD (electron capture detector), GC-MS and LC-MS are commonly utilized to Identify and quantify unknown DBPs. A recent study of two Egyptian drinking water treatment plants quantified DBPs found in the raw and treated water from the plants using GC-ECD. At the 2018 Pittcon environmental analysis symposium, Tarek Manasfi of Aix-Marseille University will give a presentation on the analysis of DBPs in seawater swimming pools using GC-ECD, GC-MS and LC coupled to high-resolution MS.

The identification of iodinated DBP, which can be the most harmful to human health, can be particularly challenging due to their low concentrations. High resolution, high accuracy and high sensitivity analytical techniques are required to identify and quantify iodinated DBPs. GC coupled with high- resolution, accurate mass Orbitrap mass spectrometer, has been used to detect iodinated DBPs detection in water samples. Thermo Fischer Scientific, who will be featured at the 2018 Pittcon Expo, supply the Thermo Scientific Q Exactive GC hybrid quadrupole-Orbitrap mass spectrometer, which can successfully identify unknown DBPs including iodinated DBPs.

Disinfection of drinking water has reduced the presence of pathogens present in water to such a level that food now surpasses water as a leading pathogen exposure source in the US. Prepared vegetables and salads are often washed with chlorine treated water to kill any pathogens present on the leaves.
However, as the chlorine comes into contact with the organic matter of the leaves and any remaining organic matter from the soil, the risk of DBP formation is significant. William Mitch of Stanford University will give a talk at the 2018 Pittcon environmental analysis symposium on detecting DBPs in bagged lettuce and spinach using LC-MS.

References and Further Reading:

Chapter 3- Determining the Composition of E-Cigarette Liquids and Smoke

E-cigarettes have been marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes, however the exact compositions of the aerosols produced by e-cigarettes and their long-term health effects are largely unknown. A range of analytical methods are required to determine the chemical exposure caused by e-cigarettes and their potential risks. The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium will feature discussions on e-cigarette analysis.

The global e-cigarette market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach a value of $27 million by 2022. Awareness of the detrimental health effects of smoking and advances in electronic device technology have driven the rapid uptake of e-cigarettes. Consumers are now widely aware of e-cigarettes and it has been estimated that 2.6-10% of adults in the US use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes as they are tar-free, but the health risks associated with their use remain largely unknown.

E-cigarettes are battery powered, handheld devices that give the user the feel of smoking a cigarette by heating a liquid, known in the industry as an e-liquid, to generate an aerosol. The aerosol is inhaled and enters the user’s mouth and lungs before it is exhaled into the environment. The e-liquid commonly consists of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavorings, though the exact compositions of e-liquids varies widely. Devices are often sold with defined nicotine contents from 0 to 100 mg/mL. Manufacturers often do not release information on the exact chemicals used in e-cigarette manufacture or those that may be formed when the aerosol is produced. The composition of the aerosol inhaled by the user and exhaled into the environment is often unknown.

In August 2016, the FDA introduced regulations covering the marketing, labeling, and manufacture of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. The unknown nature of e-cigarettes caused significant debate regarding their regulation. As there is no long-term data regarding the safety of e-cigarettes, debates regarding their safety and regulation have been based on scant composition analysis data and exposure estimates.

The Chemical Composition of E-Liquids and Aerosols

To understand the exposure caused by e-cigarettes, it is important to know the e-liquid composition, aerosol composition, the efficiency and consistency of the e-cigarette, and the environmental emissions. One recently analyzed e-liquid contained 64 compounds, approximately half of which were unidentified. The aerosols of the e-cigarette contained even more compounds (82); the additional compounds were volatile organic compounds formed during the heating of the e-liquid to form the aerosol.

In 2014, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation, Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis (DPA) analyzed e-cigarette cartridges for nicotine content and the presence of other tobacco constituents. Their testing found that the e-cigarettes tested contained detectable levels of carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

A recent review of studies evaluating the chemicals in refill solutions, cartridges, aerosols, and the environmental emissions of e-cigarettes found that nicotine, tobacco-specific nitrosamines, aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (including propylene glycol), phenolic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, flavors, solvent carriers, and tobacco alkaloids were commonly present in e-cigarettes, aerosols, and/or environmental emissions resulting from e-cigarettes. Ultrafine particles with varying particle size distributions have also been reported in e-cigarette aerosols and emissions.

The exact compositions of e-liquids, aerosols, and emissions varies greatly throughout the market, and the nicotine levels listed on products are often incorrect. In addition to this, e-cigarette brands and models also vary in their efficiency and consistency of nicotine delivery.

The DPA tests revealed that the majority of e-cigarette cartridges that were labeled as nicotine-free contained low levels of nicotine. Furthermore, when different e-cigarette cartridges with the same label were tested, each cartridge emitted a different amount of nicotine with each inhalation, ranging from 26.8 to 43.2 mcg nicotine per 100 mL inhalation. Nicotine is an addictive and toxic chemical. Large doses of nicotine can be lethal, and even small doses are habit forming, so it important that the nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes is consistent and below toxic levels.

The results of the DPA and other research suggest that the quality control processes used in e-cigarette manufacturing are inconsistent or non-existent, which could cause harm to the consumer by exposing them to increased levels of nicotine and other chemicals.

Analyzing the Composition of E-Cigarettes

A range of analytical methods can be used to determine the compositions of e-liquids, aerosols, and environmental emissions. Techniques combining separation and mass spectroscopy, such as GC-MS and LC-MS are commonly used to identify compounds in e-liquids and aerosols. GC-MS and LC-MS provide sensitive compositional analysis.

Low-temperature plasma ionization-MS (LTPI) and electrospray ionization (ESI-MS) can also be used to detect species present in e-liquids and aerosols. ESI-MS is able to detect a variety of higher mass, less volatile species that are not observed by GC-MS. The 2018 Pittcon Expo will feature all the latest technology in GC-MS, LC-MS, LTPI-MS, and ESI-MS from leading manufacturers including Thermo Fisher Scientific, Shimadzu, and Conquer Scientific.

GC-MS and LC-MS analysis of e-liquids can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has been reported to enable rapid detection of the ingredients in e-cigarette liquids. However, NMR cannot detect trace concentrations and has therefore not been able to detect tobacco-specific impurities in e-liquids. The 2018 Pittcon Expo will feature Bruker, who supply automated devices and software that allows for the full automation of the NMR workflow, from sample preparation and sample changing to data analysis and archive, allowing researchers to rapidly and efficiently analyze the contents of e-cigarettes.

At the 2018 Pittcon environmental analysis symposium, John Richie from Penn State University will discuss the use of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy to detect reactive, short-lived free radical species formed in e-cigarette aerosols.

To analyze the aerosols formed by e-cigarettes and the chemical exposure of the users, researchers must generate an aerosol using the e-cigarette. As John Richie will cover in his presentation, the aerosol composition is often temperature and wattage dependent, so it is important to simulate e-cigarette usage conditions as closely as possible. Methodology for e-cigarette aerosol generation is not yet standardized and a range of equipment and parameters have been reported in the literature. Standard methods would be helpful for assessing the contents of e-cigarettes and their potential toxicity.

Investigating the Effect of E-Cigarettes on Health

The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are not expected to be fully understood for decades. Debates on the safety of e-cigarettes have been based on the effects of chemicals found in e-liquids and aerosols. For example, tobacco-specific nitrosamines are carcinogenic compounds, and propylene glycol causes respiratory irritation.

In vitro assessments of the impacts of e-cigarettes could offer vital information about their potential long-term health effects. In vitro tests have been used previously to assess the biological impact of tobacco smoke. In vitro aerosol exposure systems use a smoking machine to generate, dilute and deliver aerosols from the e-cigarette to cell cultures, tissues or organs Various smoking machines can be used for in vitro experiments.

References and Further Reading:

Chapter 4- Wastewater Analysis in the Oil & Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry produces vast amounts of wastewater, which can be monitored and treated to provide clean water for re-use in oil and gas operations, or sold for irrigation, animal consumption, or human drinking water.

Analysis of wastewater plays a vital role in monitoring wastewater and ensuring adequate water treatment before discharge or reuse. Pittcon 2018 will feature a number of talks on monitoring wastewaters and the relevant technology for wastewater analysis.

Oil and gas reservoirs commonly contain a significant amount of water and additional water is usually injected into the well during oil and gas extraction. As a result, oil wells can sometimes produce as much as ten barrels of contaminated water for every one barrel of oil. It is estimated that oil fields are responsible for 60% of the water generated globally per day. The water produced often contains a complex mixture of inorganic and organic compounds, including chemicals and by-products from the oil and gas recovery processes.

Water produced by oil fields contains dissolved and dispersed oil components, dissolved formation minerals, production chemicals, dissolved gases (including CO2 and H2S) and produced solids. The exact composition of the wastewater can vary widely with geological formation, lifetime of the reservoir and the type of hydrocarbon produced. Depending on the quality of this water, in some cases, it can be a useful by-product or even a sellable commodity.

Monitoring Wastewater from Oil and Gas Extractions

Monitoring the chemical and biological constituents of wastewater can aid selection and development of appropriate water treatment technologies.

Due to the highly varied and complex nature of wastewater composition a huge range of different parameters are used to characterize it. Total dissolved solids, total organic carbon, anions/cations, metals, hardness, alkalinity, biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, oil and grease, pH, and radioactive constituents are commonly monitored components of extraction water. At the 2018 Pittcon environmental analysis symposium, Matthew Tarr of the University of New Orleans will talk about the impacts of advances in environmental analytical chemistry on petroleum production monitoring and oil spill science, while Kevin Schug of the University of Texas at Arlington will discuss selecting appropriate analytical methods for monitoring the environmental impact of unconventional oil and gas development.

Treating Wastewater from Oil and Gas extraction

There are several ways to manage the water produced during extraction: it can be injected into the same well or another well; water can be discharged into the environment; water can be reused in oil and gas operations; and water can be used for irrigation, animal consumption, or as drinking water.

However, before water can be discharged or reused, it must be cleaned. Treated water has the potential to be a valuable product rather than waste. Due to the varied nature of the contaminants present in oil and gas wastewater, treatment can often be challenging. Treatment steps often include de-oiling, the removal of soluble organics, disinfection to remove bacteria, removal of suspended solids, removal of dissolved gases, desalinization or demineralization, softening and sodium adsorption ratio adjustment. There are a wide range of water treatment options available for each treatment step, including physical, chemical, biological, photocatalytic, and electrochemical methods.

Recently, advanced oxidation processes, including heterogeneous processes such as using semiconductors in the presence of UV light, have gained the interest of researchers aiming to remove organic contaminants from wastewater. Electrochemical water treatment methods have also gained attention due to their environmental compatibility, high removal efficiency and potential cost-effectiveness. Over the past 20 years, electrochemical water treatment research has advanced rapidly and there are now established methods for electrocoagulation, electrodeposition, electrooxidation, electrodisinfection, electrofenton, electroflotation and electrosorption.

Researchers working on water treatment processes including new photocatalytic and electrochemical methods must utilize the same analytical methods to determine their processes effects on sewage water. Chemical oxygen demand is a commonly used response measure that can be determined using a colorimetric method.

Analysis of Treated Wastewater

Once wastewater has been treated, analysis must confirm that the water meets the standards required for the intended application. The quality of discharged water is regulated in the US by the EPA Clean Water Act and wastewaters must be treated and analyzed using approved EPA methods to ensure they can be safely discharged.

Common analyses for treated wastewaters include tests for volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, total hydrocarbon content, metals, biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, pH, alkalinity, ammonia, and ionic balance. The analytical methods approved by the EPA use analytical solutions including GC, GC-MS, LC, LC-MS, IC, discrete analysis, ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry), ICP-MS, and colorimeters. Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a complete range of equipment for wastewater testing and will be present at the 2018 Pittcon Expo.

Treated water that will be used as drinking water should be thoroughly analyzed to ensure it is safe to drink. Drinking water should be tested for the presence of microcystins, which are toxins produced by blue-green algae in surface waters. The World Health Organization has set a limit for the presence of microcystins at 1 ppb (1 µg/L). The analysis method of choice for microcystins is LC-MS/MS on triple quadrupole mass spectrometers run in multiple reaction monitoring mode. The Bruker EVOQ LC-MS/MS, which will be featured at the Pittcon 2018 Expo is ideal for this purpose and can detect microcystins down to 0.05 ppb.

References and Further Reading:


Environmental analysis is a complex and rapidly advancing area of science that is essential for identifying and monitoring the effects of chemical contaminants in the air, soil, and water.

The 2018 Pittcon Conference is a must-attend event for scientists and researchers wishing to learn about the latest trends in environmental analysis. This year, Pittcon will host an environmental analysis symposium that will enable delegates to learn from experts.

Environmental analysis often presents new challenges for analytical chemistry. Identifying and quantifying unknown chemicals in complex, real world solutions is difficult and often requires multiple techniques and specialized equipment. Advances in analytical technology provide new opportunities for environmental analysis. The Pittcon Expo will feature many companies that supply the latest technology for analyzing complex environmental samples.