EPA Method 6020A

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EPA Method 6020A:
ICP-MS. Official Name: EPA Method 6020A, Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry

Method 6020 describes the multi-elemental determination of analytes by ICP-MS in environmental samples. The method measures ions produced by a radio-frequency inductively coupled plasma. Analyte species originating in a liquid are nebulized and the resulting aerosol is transported by argon gas into the plasma torch. The ions produced by high temperatures are entrained in the plasma gas and introduced, by means of an interface, into a mass spectrometer. The ions produced in the plasma are sorted according to their mass-to-charge ratios and quantified with a channel electron multiplier. Interferences must be assessed and valid corrections applied, or the data flagged to indicate problems. Interference correction must include compensation for background ions contributed by the plasma gas, reagents, and constituents of the sample matrix. Prior to analysis, samples which require total values must be acid digested using appropriate sample preparation methods.

Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) is applicable to the determination of sub-ug/L concentrations of a large number of elements in water samples and in waste extracts or digests. When dissolved constituents are required, samples must be filtered and acid-preserved prior to analysis. No digestion is required prior to analysis for dissolved elements in water samples. Acid digestion prior to filtration and analysis is required for groundwater, aqueous samples, industrial wastes, soils, sludges, sediments, and other solid wastes for which total (acid-leachable) elements are required.

SW-846 Online: Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste, Physical/Chemical Methods

Isobaric elemental interferences, isobaric molecular and doubly-charged ion interferences, physical interferences, and memory interferences.

QC Requirements:
Instrument detection limit estimation; monitoring of internal standard intensities; extensive QC for interference corrections; analysis of spiked samples and controls.

Maximum Holding Time:
Varies by analyte.



Instrument detection limits, sensitivities, and linear ranges will vary with the matrices, instrumentation, and operating conditions

Sample Prep:

In an EPA multi-laboratory study, twelve laboratories applied the ICP-MS technique to both aqueous and solid samples. Table 3 (within full method) summarizes the method performance data for aqueous samples. Table 5 (within full method) summarizes the method performance data for aqueous and seawater samples with interfering elements removed and samples preconcentrated prior to analysis. Table 6 (within full method) summarizes the performance data for a simulated drinking water standard.

Instrument detection limits (IDLs) in ug/L can be estimated by calculating the average of the standard deviations of three runs on three non-consecutive days from the analysis of a reagent blank solution with seven consecutive measurements per day. Each measurement must be performed as though it were a separate analytical sample (i.e., each measurement must be followed by a rinse and/or any other procedure normally performed between the analysis of separate samples). IDLs must be determined at least every three months and kept with the instrument log book. Instrument detection limits, sensitivities, and linear ranges will vary with the matrices, instrumentation, and operating conditions. In relatively simple matrices, detection limits will generally be below 0.1 ug/L. Less sensitive elements and desensitized major elements may be 1.0 ug/L or higher. Refer to Chapter One (http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/test/pdfs/chap1.pdf) for additional guidance.

Revision Number:
Revision 6, November 2004.