Contextual Examples

Atomic Absorption Spectrometry is important in a number of industrial and government applications.  Below are some examples:

1. One of the most powerful applications of AA has been for the determination of lead in clinical and environment samples. Electrothermal (graphite furnace) AA can determine lead concentrations in solution down to less than 1 ng/mL. The method has been accepted as a standard for the determination of lead in blood and innovative sample introduction devices, such as slurry-samplers, have allowed the rapid environmental assessment of large numbers of samples. An example of such a study was the assessment of lead contamination in parks and playgrounds (Adobe PDF reader required) in a suburban community. Such studies can permit government to act rapidly to remediate potential health hazards to the community.

2. Electrothermal Atomic absorption is ideally suited for the development of portable instrumentation. Field instrumentation that can be used for onsite determination of environmental metal pollution has been developed and tested. Now, instead of samples being collected and returned to a laboratory for analysis by technicians, AA test equipment can be brought into the field, reducing possibilities of contamination and loss and speeding up the assessment of and remediation process.

3. Atomic absorption is used by technicians in the garment industry to assure that imported clothing does not contain toxic elements.

4. Forensic technicians use AA for the characterization of trace elements in crime samples. Arsenic is determined in hair to determine the date and extent of arsenic poisoning. Barium, antimony, and lead are determined on the hands of crime suspects to search for correlations with gunshot residues (or here) remaining at a crime scene.

5. Atomic absorption is critical for quality control and pollution monitoring in the food industry. It is used in an official method recommended by the AOCS (American Oil Chemists Society) for the determination of residual catalysts (chromium, copper, nickel and iron) in hydrogenated vegetable oils. Producers of canned goods commonly monitor the possible presence of lead or tin in food stored in cans.

Return to Skill Development Module L6.12 Atomic Absorption Spectrometry Introduction