Analytical chemistry

Our scientists work with the most up-to-date analytical equipment and go far beyond routine analysis and monitoring. We provide advice and full interpretation of results, and have a detailed knowledge of national and international regulatory standards. Our scientists are involved in the design and delivery of a variety of R&D programmes.

We tackle a wide range of work but the main focus is on the determination of man-made and natural contaminants in environmental settings. This helps us better understand how to manage and assess specific sources of chemicals in normal, decommissioning and emergency situations.

Our team has extensive experience in the field of emerging contaminants and endocrine disruptors, and can provide specialist investigations where the type of contamination is unknown. We also undertake analysis in support of other Cefas departments, particularly ecotoxicology, emergency response and regulatory assessment.

Typical determinands include:

  • polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • trace elements (e.g. heavy metals)
  • organometallic compounds (e.g. tributyl tin (TBT))
  • pharmaceuticals
  • brominated flame retardants (e.g. PBDEs, HBCD)
  • organochlorine pesticides
  • perfluorinated compounds
  • alkyl phenols
  • dioxins
  • hydrazine
  • marine biotoxins (including DSP, ASP and PSP)

We tackle a wide range of matrices too, developing methods in-house for sediments, dredge material, biota such as fish, shellfish and marine mammals, waters, sewage sludges and passive samplers.

We pride ourselves on our high quality analysis and very low limits of detection and, in order to demonstrate our commitment to this, we undertake a number of quality assurance exercises. We hold accreditation as a UKAS ISO 17025 testing laboratory, Number 1875 and participate in proficiency testing schemes, such as QUASIMEME, and various laboratory intercalibration exercises including with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the NORMAN network. We are also regularly involved in the characterisation of certified reference materials with international bodies such as NIST, EC-JRC and AEA.

Our tests all use analytical methods and include the EU-approved liquid chromatography (LC) methods for ASP and PSP toxins. Lipophilic toxins analyses are conducted by the liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) method, now listed as the EU reference method for these toxins. Dredge material analysis is carried out in accordance with MMO guidelines and achieves the highest quality.

Our customers include the water industry, pharmaceutical companies and the nuclear industry, as well as port and harbour authorities, the UK and foreign governments and the UK Food Standards Agency.