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Methods of analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory - Determination of elements in whole-water digests using inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry

April 1, 1999

Inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) can be used to determine 26 elements in whole-water digests. Both methods have distinct advantages and disadvantages--ICP-OES is capable of analyzing samples with higher elemental concentrations without dilution, however, ICP-MS is more sensitive and capable of determining much lower elemental concentrations. Both techniques gave accurate results for spike recoveries, digested standard reference-water samples, and whole-water digests. Average spike recoveries in whole-water digests were 100 plus/minus 10 percent, although recoveries for digests with high dissolved-solid concentrations were lower for selected elements by ICP-MS. Results for standard reference-water samples were generally within 1 standard deviation of hte most probable values. Statistical analysis of the results from 43 whole-water digest indicated that there was no significant difference among ICP-OES, ICP-MS, and former official methods of analysis for 24 of the 26 elements evaluated.