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Sample Handling Strategies for Accurate Lead-in-soil Measurements in the Field and Laboratory
Stephen Shefsky
NITON Corporation, 900 Middlesex Turnpike Building 8, Billerica, MA 01821

Paper published in the Proceedings of the Field Analytical Methods for Hazardous Wastes and Toxic Chemicals conference (A&WMA), January 29-31, 1997, pp. 375-385.

The inhomogenous lead-in-soil matrix can present serious obstacles to accurate sample collection and handling. In typical lead-in-soil measurement, particle size related errors in sampling and sample handling often exceed all other sources of error. The magnitude of error can vary widely depending on the particulate nature of the lead contaminant and the effectiveness of control measures. Large particle contaminants, such as lead bearing paint chips, pose a much greater challenge to accurate sample handling than do small particle contaminants, such as air dispersed industrial emissions. A sample handling protocol demonstrated to give reliable, valid data in small particle situations may prove entirely inadequate for large particle cases. This paper focuses on the importance of fundamental error, a statistical consequence of particulate sampling. We discuss in quantitative terms the significance of fundamental error on the measurement of paint chip contaminated soils near a 400 ppm action level. On the basis of error estimates, we recommend that sample handling protocols control particle related errors by ensuring adequate sample size and sample definition, and by accomplishing sufficient particle size reduction and homogenization before subsampling. We discuss particle related errors and their effect on laboratory, field, and in-situ analytical methods. We recommend that quality assurance protocols aim to determine the overall measurement quality by evaluating error at all stages from sampling and sample handling through analysis.

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