Advances in the analysis of persistent organic pollutants


Wong Building Room 1050, 3610 rue University, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C5, CA

CIVE 615 Environmental & water resource engineering seminar series

Open to the public, this seminar given by Dr. Eric Reiner, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, focuses on "Advances in the Analysis of Persistent Organic Pollutants".

An important goal in the field of analytical chemistry, especially related to the environment and human health, is to achieve continual improvement in the analysis of persistent toxic pollutants. Halogenated organic chemicals represent an important group of pollutants. They are used in a wide variety of applications such as flame retardants, fire suppressants, heat transfer agents, surfactants and pesticides, mainly because of their chemical inertness and stability. As a result of this stability, many of these halogenated organic compounds are persistent in the environment, toxic and/or bioaccumulative. The greatest challenge through the years has been finding analytical methods that are sensitive and selective enough to determine concentrations at levels low enough to protect humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, methods capable of determining concentrations to meet the above criteria have only been available for the last few decades.  Over the last century, sensitivity and selectivity for the determination of halogenated organics has increased significantly. Single toxic components can be separated and accurately quantified from numerous other very similar compounds. Detection limits have decreased by over 10 orders of magnitude.  In most cases, current analytical methods are selective and sensitive enough to inform scientists of the presence and levels of distinct organohalogens in samples. This helps us in our endeavour to protect human life and wildlife from exposure to toxic persistent organic compounds. The current challenge is to chromatographically separate, detect and quantify as many persistent organic pollutants as possible within the same sample extract. The development and enhancement of analytical methods for persistent halogenated organics over the past 100 years will be reviewed and discussed.

Eric Reiner is a senior mass spectrometry research scientist at the Laboratory Services Branch of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. He also holds adjunct professor status at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto, Department and University of Waterloo and Department of Environmental Forensics at Pennsylvania State University. Eric obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1986 in Analytical Chemistry / Mass Spectrometry under the direction of Prof. Alex G. Harrison. He has been working in the field of ultra-trace environmental analysis for more than 25 years.