NIST Releases Great Lakes Sediment Material for Measuring Organic Pollutants

NIST Releases Great Lakes Sediment Material for Measuring Organic Pollutants

Researchers use the Ponar grab to extract sediment samples from the lakebed in Milwaukee Bay.

Credit: M. Ellisor/NIST

People who live near the Great Lakes might go there to enjoy a swim or a boat ride. But if you’re visiting from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), you might go boating for science.

Collaborating with researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NIST researchers collected freshwater sediment samples from Milwaukee Harbor in Lake Michigan.

Their overarching mission is to help scientists accurately measure organic pollutants in the environment. To help do so, NIST has released a reference material containing carefully measured organic contaminants in Great Lakes sediment.

Measurements are important in understanding the impact of pollutants on the environment and how that in return affects us. “It’s important to know water and soil quality. You don’t want to be near contaminated sediment or eat contaminated fish,” said NIST researcher Jessica Reiner.

Reiner and her colleagues want to further improve measurements of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), toxic chemicals that can negatively affect human health and the environment. They last for long periods of time and aren’t easily broken down. Many POPs were first produced after World War II and introduced commercially for agriculture, manufacturing and other uses. But unfortunately, these organic pollutants can also pass through the food chain from one species to another.

Concerns are rising about POP concentration in freshwater regions such as the Great Lakes, which border the northern par ..

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