The analysis of wastewater for trace metal contamination is an important step in ensuring human and environmental health. Wastewater is regulated differently in different countries, but the goal is to minimize the pollution introduced into natural waterways. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the states, negotiates a discharge permit through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) which takes into account the federal guidelines for the industrial category (40 CFR, Parts 405-471)1 and the sensitivity of the waterway receiving the discharge. Therefore, wastewater may need to be measured for a variety of metals at different concentrations, in different wastewater matrices.
A variety of inorganic techniques can be used to measure trace elements in waste water including atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and ICP mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Depending upon the number of elements that need to be determined and the number of samples that need to be run, the most suitable technique for business requirements can be chosen. ICP-OES is a good match with the productivity requirements of many laboratories and requires only a moderate investment.