Challenges and successes in using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for measurements of tungsten in environmental water and soil samples

Jay L. Clausen, Michael E. Ketterer, Anthony J. Bednar, Mark R. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Military small arms ranges in the United States have been used for munitions training with tungsten rounds, which are comprised of powdered tungsten (W) pressed together with polymeric binders. As a result, W has been introduced into surface soils. The environmental and human health effects of W remain open questions. The US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for environmental monitoring, site assessments, and cleanup of small arms ranges. This work requires routine measurements of tungsten in natural waters and soils. However, the existing sample preparation and analytical procedures were not specifically developed with W in mind for environmental analysis. Our work suggests modification of existing metal sample preparation and analytical procedures are necessary to accurately quantify W in environmental media. Our group has been actively conducting W measurements using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS), both with quadrupole and sector field ICPMS systems. We have used heavy rare earth elements and iridium as internal standards. For soils, the great majority of the W from small arms can be dissolved using acid leaching with HNO3-H3PO4 mixtures; more rigorous preparations with fusion or HF digestions can also be used. In ICPMS analysis, the largest challenge involves dealing with the significant carry-over and memory of W in sample introduction systems. This ultimately limits measurement capabilities, particularly at sub-μgL-1 levels. With careful attention to the sample and standards' matrix constituents, and proper washout time, successful analysis is possible and ICPMS is clearly the preferred technique. A commercially available fluoropolymer sample introduction system exhibits significantly improved memory characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-783
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Small arms ranges
  • Soil
  • Tungsten
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Soil Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Chemistry


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