Environmental Analysis at Pittcon 2018

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Contamination of our air, soil, and water with chemical species from human activities poses a significant risk to our health and the environment.  Environmental analysis is a rapidly developing field that is vital for identifying chemical contaminants and monitoring their fates and effects.

The Pittcon 2018 Conference will feature a symposium on environmental analysis, and this article outlines some of the latest trends that will be covered there.

Wastewater Epidemiology

The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium will feature a talk by Kevin Bisceglia on wastewater epidemiology. Wastewater epidemiology involves analyzing metabolites, chemicals and/or biomarkers in sewage wastewater to obtain unbiased, aggregated information about a population including population size, behavior, health, and drug consumption.

Detecting metabolites and biomarkers requires analytical techniques that can accurately detect and measure molecules that may be present in low concentrations in complex solutions. Liquid chromatography (LC) and gas chromatography (GC) are often utilized in combination with mass spectroscopy (MS) to identify and quantify compounds present in sewage.

Leading GC-MS and LC-MS suppliers will be present at the Pittcon Expo. Analytical methods used in wastewater epidemiology must be carefully developed as measurements of metabolite and biomarker concentrations can be heavily dependent on environmental factors, sample preparation, and analysis methods.

Analysis of Disinfection By-Products (DBPs)

DBPs have recently been recognized as ‘contaminants of emerging environmental concern’ due to their potential to harm human health and the environment. The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium with feature talks on identifying DBPs and determining their origins and toxicities.

Drinking water, swimming water, and wastewaters are routinely disinfected to remove harmful pathogens. DBPs form when disinfectants react with organic matter that is naturally present in the water during treatment. Many DBPs are considered toxic. Water disinfection must, therefore, be optimized to strike a balance between the risk of exposure to pathogens in untreated water and the risk from DBPs in treated water.  Analyzing pathogens and organic components in untreated water can provide vital information about the level of water treatment required.

As the prevalence and identity of all DBPs and their effects are not yet known, data collection on DBP occurrence, frequency, and health effects is vital. However, the large number of potential DBPs, combined with their low concentrations can make analysis challenging.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates some DBPs under the clean water act, and there are a number of analytical methods for the quantification of DBPs. The approved analytical methods use GC, IC (ion chromatography), ICP (inductively coupled plasma), and colorimetric methods. The 2018 Pittcon Expo will feature all the technology required for DBP analysis.

Click here to register for Pittcon 2018

Analyzing the Contents of E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes have been marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes but their prominence has caused some concern as the exact compositions of the aerosols produced by e-cigarettes, and their long-term health effects are largely unknown. E-liquids, delivery efficiencies, aerosols, and emissions can vary greatly between products. The unknown nature of e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and their associated aerosols presents new challenges for analytical chemistry.

The Pittcon 2018 environmental analysis symposium will include presentations on e-cigarette analysis. A range of analytical methods can be used to determine the compositions of e-liquids, aerosols, and environmental emissions. LC-MS, GC-MS, Low-temperature plasma ionization-MS (LTPI) and electrospray ionization (ESI-MS) are commonly used to identify compounds in e-liquids and aerosols as they provide sensitive compositional analysis. However, these methods can be time-consuming.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy can provide rapid detection of the ingredients in e-cigarette liquids, though with reduced sensitivity. The 2018 Pittcon Expo will feature all the latest technology in GC-MS, LC-MS, LTPI-MS, ESI-MS, and NMR from leading manufacturers.

Wastewater Analysis in the Oil & Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry produces vast amounts of wastewater. Analysis of wastewater can aid the selection and development of appropriate water treatment processes. Treated water can be re-used in oil and gas operations, irrigation, farming, or drinking water.

Analysis of treated wastewater ensures that it can be safely discharged or re-used. The EPA has developed approved analytical methods to monitor treated water.  The methods use analytical techniques including GC, GC-MS, LC, LC-MS, IC, discrete analysis, ICP-OES (inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry), ICP-MS, and colorimeters. Thermo Fischer provide a complete range of equipment for wastewater analysis and will be present at the 2018 Pittcon Expo.

The 2018 Pittcon environmental analysis symposium will feature Matthew Tarr of the University of New Orleans, who will talk about how advances in environmental analytical chemistry are changing petroleum production monitoring, and Kevin Schug of the University of Texas at Arlington who will give a presentation on analytical methods for monitoring the environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development.


Environmental analysis is a challenging area of analytical chemistry that aims to identify and monitor the effects of chemical contaminants on human health and the environment. The 2018 Pittcon Conference is the ideal to learn about the latest trends in environmental analysis.

Environmental analysis relies heavily on advanced techniques from analytical chemistry including molecular spectroscopy, atomic spectroscopy, chromatography, mass spectroscopy, electroanalytical methods, thermal methods, and radiochemical methods. The Pittcon 2018 Expo will feature all the leading technology suppliers and is the ideal place to find companies providing the latest analytical technology for environmental analysis.

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

Visit pittcon.org for more information.

References and Further Reading

  1. ‘Wastewater-based epidemiology for public health monitoring’ Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Lubertus Bijlsma, Sara Castiglioni, Adrian Covaci, Pim de Voogt, Erik Emke, Félix Hernández, Christoph Ort, Malcolm Reid, Alexander L.N. van Nuijs, Kevin V. Thomas, Water & Sewage Journal, 2014.
  2. ‘Assessing illicit drugs in wastewater – Advances in wastewater-based drug epidemiology’ http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/2273/TDXD16022ENC_4.pdf
  3. ‘A review of what is an emerging contaminant’ Sébastien Sauvé, Mélanie Desrosiers, Chemistry Central Journal, 2014.
  4. ‘Disinfection Byproducts Analysis’ http://www.thermofisher.com/uk/en/home/industrial/environmental/environmental-learning-center/contaminant-analysis-information/anion-analysis/disinfection-byproducts-analysis.html
  5. ‘Summary of Results: Laboratory Analysis of Electronic Cigarettes Conducted By FDA’
  6. ‘Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes’ Tianrong Cheng, Tobacco Control, 2014.
  7. ‘Revealing the chemical composition of e-cigarettes ‘ https://www.news-medical.net/whitepaper/20150706/Revealing-the-chemical-composition-of-e-cigarettes.aspx
  8. ‘Liquid- and Vapor-Phase Analysis of E-Cigarette Liquids by Mass Spectrometry’ http://www.unc.edu
  9. ‘Wastewater analysis’
  10. ‘Produced water treatment technologies’ Ebenezer T. Igunnu, George Z. Chen, International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies, 2014.


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