Testing reagents and chemicals for mercury can be a very expensive undertaking. Your up front work can ensure that you get the most for your money and can minimize the amount of testing done. Consider these points before sending out samples for testing:
- Contact colleagues who are using the same methods, reagents, and instruments. Many hospitals have performed mercury testing and their findings can help you prioritize and streamline your efforts.
- Mercury in a product had to come from somewhere. It has been added as a preservative, is a contaminant of the mineral mining, or the manufacturing process uses a mercury cell. Write to your manufacturers and distributors and ask very specific questions about their products. Ask them if the mercury cell process is used to produce the sodium in their sodium products. Many manufacturers that are reluctant to conduct an analysis may be willing to give information and may even be willing to certify this information.
- Send letters to your reagent vendors requesting a Certificate of Analysis or other data on the mercury concentration of their products.
- Contact manufacturers of reagents that are certified mercury free to confirm that the detection limit of testing was low enough to detect mercury present at ppb levels. (For more information on detection limits, see the SHP fact sheet Interpreting Analytical Results for Mercury and Other Substances).
- Contact your Facilities or Materials Management managers to see if the hospital has an existing contract with a laboratory certified by the state for mercury testing. The method used is EPA Method 1631, Measurement of Mercury in Water by Oxidation, Purge and Trap.
- To reduce costs and obtain high-quality and reproducible results it is best to establish a contract with a certified laboratory that includes collection containers, preservation, storage, pick up and, most importantly, technical assistance.
- Ensure that containers used to collect any samples for testing are chemically clean. Using unclean containers can cause accuracy problems. (Obtain chemically clean containers from a Certified Laboratory or see EPA Method 1631 - Sample collection, preservation, and storage).
- Make sure you have carefully labeled all samples. Labeling will help you easily locate and identify your results on an analytical report and will provide ease of maintaining and utilizing historical records of laboratory products. Even in your absence the sample identification should allow your facility to track exactly:
- What the sample is (product identification, grade, trade name, manufacturer, lot and any other pertinent information)
- The date and time the sample was taken
- Location from which the sample was taken
- Who took the sample
- Check out the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) fact sheet "Considerations In Selecting A Laboratory" at http://www.mntap.umn.edu. (From the home page, select "Health Care", "Resources", then "Selecting a Laboratory").