Speciation analysis of elements allows a more detailed evaluation of the benefit and/or risk of elements present in a sample. The species or chemical form, or oxidation state, of elements determines their mobility, bioavailability and toxicity. Since these properties vary greatly depending on the species in which an element is present, precise determination in environmental, food and agricultural samples and in consumer products is often essential to classify them.
Speciation analysis in product safety monitoring
Since an element can be essential or toxic just because of its oxidation state, the determination of element species in the context of product safety monitoring is of crucial importance. Food and beverages can be contaminated with toxic elements from natural sources alone, such as rice from areas with a high natural concentration of arsenic. For consumer goods, such as textiles, plastics, leather or toys, complex production steps or treatment with chemicals can cause exposure to toxic element species. Contact with the skin or oral ingestion could then lead to severe poisoning. In the pharmaceutical industry, individual elements must be characterized by speciation analysis to ensure the safety of pharmaceutical products.
Speciation analysis in environmental monitoring
In environmental monitoring, different sample matrices and sources are analysed for species of arsenic, selenium, chromium, mercury, cadmium and others in order to identify their chemical effects on natural cycles and to implement measures. Waste water and emission sources, for example, can pollute the environment with pollutants that enter complex reactions, form new species and pose a potential risk to organisms through the food chain. But natural sources can also cause pollution in water, soil or air.
Speciation analysis in research
Since speciation analysis enables a more detailed understanding of the natural cycles and metabolic pathways of elements and their species, this results in countless fields of research on the effects of element species on organisms and a reliable risk assessment with regard to their toxicity. Examples include research into gadolinium-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents and the investigation of arsenic species in marine organisms.
The application of LC- and IC-ICP-MS for speciation analysis
Different techniques allow the separation and detection of element species. The coupling of liquid chromatography or ion chromatography for the separation of species and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for detection is well established as a powerful technique. Thanks to its detection strength, ICP-MS enables the reliable determination of ultra traces of potentially harmful element species in a wide range of applications.
With their exceptionally high sensitivity, the instruments of the PlasmaQuant MS series offer an optimal solution for research in addition to routine analysis in the fields of product quality and product safety control. With the PQ LC series for liquid and ion chromatography, Analytik Jena offers its own solution for LC-ICP-MS coupling. In addition, the PlasmaQuant MS series devices can also be coupled with other HPLC systems and integrated into existing laboratory environments.
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