Commercial environmental laboratories practice “applied analytical chemistry” by analyzing samples using a list of potential contaminants to determine how much, if any, of the pollutants are there. The data collected may be used by the laboratory’s client to, among other reasons, satisfy a regulatory permit, or for routine monitoring as required by a regulatory agency, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Despite a variety of end uses, most laboratories follow the same routine. The sample enters the laboratory, is assigned a unique identification number and a series of requested tests that are defined by approved and regulated methods. The laboratory analysts run the requested tests and the results are recorded. The tests are often automated because automation is a means to obtain results quickly and with greater accuracy and precision.
The most important thing in the “pay per test” laboratory is that the results are obtained at reasonable cost. The cost will be transferred to the client as a price per the analysis. Remember, however, that the commercial laboratory is performing tests required by some regulatory agency, so part of the testing will include the analysis of standards, blanks, and quality control samples that are required to prove that the results are legally defensible. These extra tests demonstrate accuracy and precision, and the cost to obtain these results increases the overall cost of analysis per sample.
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