Comparative study of digestion methods EPA 3050B (HNO₃--H₂O₂--HCl) and ISO 11466.3 (aqua regia) for Cu, Ni and Pb contamination assessment in marine sediments.

Research paper by Mirella M Peña-Icart, Margarita E ME Villanueva Tagle, Carlos C Alonso-Hernández, Joelis J Rodríguez Hernández, Moni M Behar, Mario S MS Pomares Alfonso

Indexed on: 28 Jun '11Published on: 28 Jun '11Published in: Marine Environmental Research


Knowing the metal extraction capacity of a digestion method is crucial for a better environmental interpretation of metal concentrations determined in sediments. One of the main problems at the present is the lack of harmonization of information obtained by two of the most popular sediment partial digestion methods: ISO 11466.3 (aqua regia) and EPA 3050B (HNO₃--H₂O₂--HCl). In the present work, the amount of Cu, Ni and Pb leached by using both methods was compared with the total content of those elements in marine sediments collected, as an example, from the Cienfuegos Bay, Cuba. Similar amounts of Cu were extracted by both methods; while leaching of Ni and Pb were different. Generally, the EPA method extracted more Ni than the ISO method. In contrast, Pb was extracted in a larger amount by the ISO method. Some explanations are given for the observed results. X-ray Diffraction, X-ray Fluorescence, Particle Induced X-ray Emission Spectrometry and Energy Dispersive X-ray coupled to Scanning Electron Microscopy were employed for this purpose. On the other hand, none of the methods studied extracted simultaneously the fraction of all the metals, probably provided by human activity (Theoretical Anthropogenic Fraction) in both sediments studied. The use of ISO 11466.3 or EPA 3050B is recommended since the analytical performance parameters of both, in combination with Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry, are adequate. For a better environmental interpretation of the analytical results, information on the extraction efficiency of the selected method for specific elements and sediments under study should also be provided, together with the determined concentrations.