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The application of ICP-SMS, GF-AAS and HG-AFS to the analysis of water and sediment samples from a temperate stratified estuary

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posted on 2023-05-16, 12:50 authored by Ashley TownsendAshley Townsend, O'Sullivan, J, Featherstone, AM, Butler, ECVB, Mackey, DJ
Three atomic spectrometry techniques, namely sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy, graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry and hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (ICP-SMS, GF-AAS and HG-AFS, respectively), housed at separate independent laboratories, were used to analyse water and sediment samples collected from the Huon River Estuary, SE Tasmania (Australia) in the Austral spring 1998. A dithiocarbamate-chelation/back-extraction technique was used to separate and preconcentrate Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd and Pb from eight collected water samples prior to analysis by ICP-SMS and GF-AAS. A number of other elements in the waters were analysed directly (Mn, Fe and Zn by GF-AAS; As by HG-AFS), or following sample dilution (1 + 19; V, Mn, Fe, As, Mo, Ba and U by ICP-SMS). Where possible, previously corroborated GF-AAS and HG-AFS techniques were used to verify obtained ICP-SMS results. From the analysis of four reference waters (SLEW-1 and -2, SLRS-3 and NASS-5), good agreement, to within ± 10-20%, was typically found, between certified (or information only values) and measured results (irrespective of analytical technique). Exceptions included Zn (and sometimes Fe) that could not be quantified by ICP-SMS due to elevated blank signals, and As which was found to lie below ICP-SMS detection limits. For Huon Estuary water samples, inter-method agreement was within ± 10-20% (for those elements amenable to analysis by more than one technique). Nitric acid extracts of two certified reference materials (Buffalo River Sediment and BCSS-1) and six Huon Estuary sediments were analysed by ICP-SMS (for Al, Sc, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd and Pb) and HG-AFS (for As). Results from the certified reference materials indicated extraction efficiencies of 60-70% (for most elements). A close correlation between ICP-SMS and HG-AFS was obtained for leachable As in the sediments. In terms of potential inorganic contaminants, the Huon Estuary was found to be a relatively 'clean' water system. The elemental concentrations measured in water and sediment samples from this region were found to lie within current Australian guidelines for estuaries. In general, no one analytical technique was able to accurately determine all elements in all samples from this relatively pristine estuarine environment. A combination of all three analytical techniques was necessary for the successful analysis of the elements considered in this study.


Publication title

Journal of Environmental Monitoring




School of Natural Sciences


Royal Society of Chemistry

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Measurement and assessment of estuarine water quality

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