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Any progress in the improvement and conservation of the quality of the environment depends vitally on the correctness of the data which form the basis of decision processes and consequently, on the quality of the analytical measurements [1,2].

Ways to quality in chemical measurements have been intensively discussed in recent years and the progress achieved has been recently summarized by Neidhard and Wegscheider [3].

Common tools in all analytical data quality systems are reference materials (Fig.1) and we like to believe that the high quality standards achieved and maintained in many areas of industrial production, and the sector of steel and iron comes easily to our mind, are also due to the availability of literally thousands of reference materials world-wide, certified at extremely narrow concentration intervals of all elements which contribute either positively or negatively to the materials properties and qualities.

The field of environmental analysis is much lesser served even today and taking into account the widely varying matrix compositions of environmental samples brought to analysis routinely, such as soils, sediments, plants, animal and human tissues, water, waste materials of any kind from sewage sludge to plastics, and if we compare the some twenty elements, certified in steel and iron reference materials with the plethora of environmental analytes, inorganic and organic, which are routinely requested for analysis and destinated to continuous growth, then we have to conclude that the environmental reference material market is dramatically undersupplied. Reference materials are employed within the analytical process at different stages and in different ways (Fig. 1).

Additional information

Authors: BIANCHI M, Environment Institute, JRC, Ispra (IT);STELLA S, Environment Institute, JRC, Ispra (IT);MUNTAU H, Environment Institute, JRC, Ispra (IT)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 19758 EN (2001). Euro: Free of charge
Availability: Available from: Documentation Service JRC Ispra Fax: +39-033-2785818
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