OVER THE PAST SEVERAL DECADES, WE HAVE BEEN LEARNING HOW IMPROPER GARBAGE
DISPOSAL METHODS HAVE IMPACTED THE ENVIRONMENT.
BUT TO GET A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING
OF THE PROBLEM, ONE LAB AT QUEEN'S CAN IDENTIFY TOXINS DOWN TO PARTS
"When research needs to be done to look at contaminants in the environment, the Analytical Services Unit can test them all.
I'm Braden Dragomir, and this is The Specialists."
Tucked away in the basement of the Biosciences Complex is the Analytical Services Unit
"The Analytical Services Unit was established approximately 25 years ago, on the University, predominately as a way to help students and graduate students do various chemical analysis.
that way the expertise would be in house and they could come to us to do their tests, we would look after all the instrumentation, and give them advice on how to do their graduate work."
The lab features some of the most state-of-the-art tools, that are able to break elements down to the parts per trillion -- which is the smallest detectable level.
This is how the process works.
"What we have here is, we have laid out some soil samples, which have already been ground up and dried, these are ready for acid digestion.
These samples here are some food samples, rice samples, which we're going to test for low level arsenic and over in the boxes, all the little vials is some water samples."
The substances are then weighed, and put in to an acid solution to be broken down to their elements.
It usually takes about 18 hours to break down, but to show you the process...this penny, put in acid, took about 3 minutes before it's completely dissolved in to it's base elements
"This is one of the three main instruments we use to in the lab to do our metals analysis.
It's called a Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometer."
This tube is dropped in to a sample, and the flame will change depending on what elements are burning....for example yellow for sodium, or red for cadmium.
The lab has a variety of different instruments that are used for break down samples
Machines like this one super
heat elements to over 8000 degrees and can identify over 60 individual elements at a time, or this one that can do a self contained Mercury identification.
Then there is the workhorse of the lab.
"With this instrument we can identify 30, 40, 50 different elements all at once, which should cover pretty much all the environmental elements of interest."
The results in this laboratory are mostly used for research projects, but they also help individual companies, or even the Canadian Government, with projects like the PCB cleanup on Resolution Island
.Braden Dragomir, CKWS Newswatch, Kingston