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Novel concepts for the preparation of surface water reference materials

Novel concepts for the preparation of surface water reference materials
©Dmitry Naumov - Fotolia.com
May 07 2015

In close collaboration with scientists from other research organisations, JRC scientists developed concepts for the preparation of three model surface water reference materials (RMs) that contain chemical contaminants, that is,  eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), six polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and tributyltin in trace amounts. These RMs will provide quality to the analytical data of EU Member States and support the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC and the Environmental Quality Standards Directive 2008/105/EC.


Only few realistic water RMs are available to control laboratories for priority pollutants at very low concentration levels to test coastal and inland water, such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Moreover, ready-to-use RMs are not yet available for most of the 45 priority substances in the WFD. To address this issue, the JRC-Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) developed three types of ready-to-use water test materials for PAHs, PBDEs and TBT. Humic acids and suspended particulate matter were added to mineral water in order to mimic real surface whole water samples as stipulated in the European Union Water Framework Directive.


Sufficient proof of stability was gathered for samples kept at low temperature and in the dark for at least four weeks, long enough to allow these samples to be used in inter-laboratory comparisons and validation of three CEN draft methods.


The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC aims to protect the quality of the inland aquatic environment. This legislation sets maximum levels for the priority substances due to their environmental impact and widespread occurrence. EU Member States must monitor the ecological and chemical status of surface waters in their territories by measuring the priority substances at ultra-trace levels in natural whole water samples. To ensure the quality of the data produced by the Member States' control laboratories, the latter need to use appropriate methods and other quality assurance tools, such as participation in proficiency tests and the use of (certified) RMs.

Read more in: S. Elordui-Zapatarietxe et al.: "Novel concepts for preparation of reference materials as whole water samples for priority substances at nanogram-per-liter level using model suspended particulate matter and humic acids", Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, (2015) 407:3055-3067, doi: 10.1007/s00216-014-8349-8