Agilent Technologies and Metrohm develop method for detecting perchlorate contamination in water

Agilent Technologies Inc. and Metrohm AG announced a high-sensitivity method to detect perchlorate in surface and drinking water.

PALO ALTO, Calif., and HERISAU, Switzerland, April 16, 2004 -- Agilent Technologies Inc. and Metrohm AG announced a high-sensitivity method to detect perchlorate in surface and drinking water. Perchlorate, an explosive propellant used in rocket fuel, is a widespread and potentially harmful contaminant that affects thyroid function.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a preliminary public health goal (PHG) of 1 part per billion (ppb) for perchlorate in water. Agilent and Metrohm's new method can detect perchlorate at levels below 100 parts per trillion in drinking or surface water, allowing regulators and testing laboratories to reliably and easily identify water supplies that approach or exceed the PHG level.

According to the EPA, there have been confirmed perchlorate releases in at least 20 U.S. states. The California Department of Health Services reports that perchlorate has been detected in more than 350 water sources in California alone.

"This method provides regulatory agencies and laboratories with a powerful tool to identify and quantify perchlorate contamination and address potential health risks," said Mike McMullen, vice president and general manager of Agilent's Chemical Analysis Solutions unit. "The Agilent/Metrohm method is simple and reliable and does not require expensive or complex instrumentation. The combination of Agilent's and Metrohm's leading technologies will help customers meet regulatory demands for lower detection limits."

The Agilent/Metrohm method uses ion chromatography and mass spectrometry (IC/MS), combining the Metrohm Advanced Ion Chromatograph and Agilent 1100 Series mass selective detector as an affordable solution for environmental analysis. This application was developed as part of a co-marketing agreement between the two companies.

The new method has several advantages over conventional perchlorate detection techniques, which rely on ion chromatography with conductivity detection. Typical methods can measure perchlorate only at 1 to 5 ppb in drinking water, and the sensitivity decreases dramatically as sample complexity increases. Interference by other ions in the sample can cause false positive and false negative results. In addition, reproducibility when analyzing heavy matrix samples such as river water or wastewater is poor.

"By using relatively simple parameters and robust instrumentation, the Agilent/Metrohm method effectively reduces ion interference and eliminates many of the sensitivity and reproducibility problems seen with other methods," said Helwig Schaefer, vice president of Metrohm. "This clearly illustrates the feasibility and effectiveness of coupling IC and MS for this and other environmental applications."

Further information is available by requesting Agilent's "The Analysis of Perchlorate by Ion Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry" application note, publication 5989-0816EN. This note is available without charge from any Agilent sales office or at

About Metrohm AG

Metrohm provides instruments and services for chemical ion analysis. Headquartered in Herisau, Switzerland, Metrohm and its distributors worldwide provide top-class service and instrumentation for all fields of chemical ion analysis. Information about Metrohm is available at

About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. is a global technology provider of communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 28,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2003. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at

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