Superfund Research Program
Trace Elements Analysis Core
The Trace Element Analysis (TEA) Core has worked extensively with all Projects and the Community Engagement Core (CEC). The TEA Core specializes in developing methods or scaling down existing methods to allow for the accurate and precise measurement of trace elements in these types of low mass samples typical for Superfund research — for example, in assessing an infant's in utero exposure to arsenic by analyzing his or her toenail arsenic levels (Davis et al. 2014). Analysis of small amounts of cellular material is another analytical service that is relatively distinct to the Dartmouth TEA Core and involves scaling down of acid digestion procedures for small cell pellets, which are digested in 1.5 ml Eppendorf tubes.
For the CEC, the TEA Core has analyzed mercury in dragonflies for a project with local schools and has analyzed 30 food products for total arsenic and arsenic speciation for a collaborative project with Tricia Thompson, who writes the Gluten Free Watchdog website. The TEA Core also provides metal analysis of homeowner water samples for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded arsenic monitoring project.
In November 2014, the TEA Core acquired an Agilent ICP-QQQ, a new ICP-MS instrument that uses a novel triple-quadrupole design that allows the operator to target each analyte for maximum sensitivity and minimum analytical interferences. The instrument was essential because of the lower detection limits and freedom from interferences for arsenic analysis. Prior to its purchase, TEA Core Director Brian Jackson, Ph.D., collaborated with Agilent to develop a method for the analysis of arsenic and selenium in food samples and to demonstrate that the method was less prone to potential interferences (Jackson et al. 2015). Since receiving the instrument, Jackson has developed a faster method for arsenic speciation in food and urine samples (Jackson 2015). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been assessing use of this fast method for food analysis and is considering amending its procedures for analytical laboratories to allow use of this method as an alternative methodology.