EPA-NERL: 200.7:  Metals in Water by ICP-AES

  • Summary
  • Analytes
  • Revisions
  • Data and Sites
Official Method Name
Determination of Metals and Trace Elements in Water and Wastes by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectrometry
Current Revision
Revision 4.4, 1994
Inductively Coupled Plasma - Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
Method Subcategory
Method Source
  Methods for the Determination of Metals in Environmental Samples, Supplement 1 (EPA/600/R-94/111)
Brief Method Summary
Except for the determination of dissolved analytes, aqueous samples are acid preserved prior to sample processing. For the analysis of dissolved analytes, an acidified portion of the filtrate is analyzed directly. For the determination of total recoverable analytes in aqueous samples containing particulate material as well as solid wastes, samples are subjected to acid pretreatment with nitric and hydrochloric acids and gentle refluxing prior to analysis. The method involves multi-element determination using sequential or simultaneous instruments. The instruments measure characteristic atomic-line emission spectra by optical spectrometry. Sample solutions are nebulized and the resulting aerosol is transported to the plasma torch. Element specific emission spectra are produced by a radio-frequency inductively coupled plasma. The spectra are dispersed by a grating spectrometer and the intensities of the lines are monitored at specific wavelengths by a photosensitive device. Photocurrents from the photosensitive device are processed and controlled by a computer system. A background correction technique is required to compensate for variable background contribution to the determination of the analytes. Background must be measured adjacent to analyte lines on samples during analysis. Various interferences are discussed and must be considered and addressed appropriately.
Scope and Application
This method determines 31 analytes, in the dissolved fraction of aqueous samples and for the measurement of total-recoverable analytes in water, wastewater, and solid wastes. Total-recoverable determination data for aqueous samples should be reported as total (dissolved + suspended fractions) metal data.
Applicable Concentration Range
Unless otherwise noted, the analytical range extends from the laboratory-determined MDL to the upper limit of the linear dynamic range.
I. SPECTRAL INTERFERENCES: (1) Background emmission or stray light. (2) Spectral overlap of emissions.
II. PHYSICAL INTERFERENCES: High viscosity or high particulate levels of sample can clog nebulizer.
III. CHEMICAL INTERFERENCES: (1) Compound formation. (2) Ionization. (3) Solute-vaporization.
IV. MEMORY INTERFERENCES: Carry-over from sample.
Quality Control Requirements
The minimum QC requirements consist of an initial demonstration of laboratory capability and on-going checks. The initial demonstration includes determining the linear dynamic range (LDR) for each wavelength utilized, determining the method detection limit (MDL) for each analyte, and analyzing a quality control sample (QCS). On-going checks include periodic analysis of laboratory reagent blanks (LRB), laboratory fortified blanks (LFB), instrument performance check solutions (IPC), calibration blanks (CB), spectral interference check solutions (SIC), and laboratory fortified matrices (LFM).
Sample Handling
For dissolved elements, filter aqueous sample through a 0.45-um pore membrane filter. Adjust the pH of the filtrate to < 2 with (1+1) HNO3. For total recoverable elements, adjust the pH of the sample to < 2 with (1+1)HNO3. When determining boron and silica in aqueous samples, only plastic, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or quartz labware is used from time of sample collection to completion of analysis.
If acid preservation in the field is not feasabile, preservation may take place at the laboratory if the sample is received by the laboratory within two weeks and is acidified at pH < 2 for 16 hours.
Maximum Holding Time
6 Months
Relative Cost
$201 to $400
Sample Preparation Methods