In November 2023, NATA accredited the first laboratory in Australia for Microplastics testing at Eurofins Environment Testing (EET).
In 2019, faced with the absence of international standards or published reference methods in this emerging field of analysis, Eurofins’ Technical Specialist, Dr. Julia Jaeger, and her team took the initiative to develop in-house methods for analysing microplastics in diverse environmental matrices.
They utilise a Laser Direct Infrared (LDIR) Chemical Imaging System and used peer-reviewed papers as their foundation. Collaborating with technology vendors, universities, and international partners, Eurofins has successfully established one of the world’s pioneering ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited laboratories for microplastics testing in Potable Water within its Melbourne facility.
“At Eurofins Environment Testing, the vast majority of our tests are ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accredited, so the pursuit of accreditation for Microplastics testing was always a priority for us,” said Dr. Jaeger. “Obtaining validation from a third party was a consistent goal, ensuring confidence in our processes and services. Consequently, we have engaged in supportive discussions with NATA representatives to chart out the potential process for this accreditation.”
After the assessment, NATA discussed the accreditation process with Dr. Julia Jaeger, delving into why the facility chose to pursue accreditation and the methodology behind this decision.
“I’ve had the privilege of working in accredited labs in Germany, the United Kingdom, and now Australia,” Julia reflected. Her journey with this project began four years ago, aiming to establish a testing facility in this emerging sector. Upon starting, the laboratory was equipped, featuring an Agilent 8700 LDIR instrument. However, knowledge regarding Microplastics Testing was limited at that time. Microplastics are everywhere so the most important task involved generating Microplastics-free water, achievable only after a series of consecutive filtrations. Additionally, as the Technical Specialist highlighted, optimising the software of the LDIR System was crucial, involving efforts to automate the process for routine operations.
“We started off with potable water the method we are currently accredited to and then moved towards more complex matrices as environmental water (dirty water), sediment/sand, soils/biosolids, cosmetics, some foods and biota.”
When developing these methodologies Regional Technical Manager, Dr Bob Symons, and Dr Jaeger agreed that stringent QA/QC procedures had to established. Their plan involved three key steps: firstly, minimising and controlling background contamination; secondly, implementing procedural blanks; and thirdly, introducing lab control samples (LCS) to consistently monitor recoveries throughout the sample clean-up process. Moreover, we have participated in three international proficiency tests (Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), and EUROqCHARM).
The validation package for accreditation was compiled with the assistance of its Quality Team, led by Ms. Tammy Lakeland. This compilation adhered not only to EET’s internal standards but also aligned with the Californian Water Boards Standard Operating Procedures for Extraction and Measurement by Infrared Spectroscopy of Microplastic Particles in Drinking Water, published in May 2022.
“There was a lot of nervousness prior to the audit, particularly because Dr. Åsa Jämting from the NMI Nanometrology Section, a true expert in this field, was our technical assessor. Fortunately, we were relieved that there were no conditions given in the audit. Looking ahead, we take pride in our achievement and are already gearing up to expand the accreditation to encompass additional matrices.”
Dr Jaeger concluded: “At Eurofins Environment Testing, delivering high quality results to our clients in the Australian/New Zealand market but also globally is paramount to us. We are dedicated to continual learning in this field, which is why we actively collaborate within our global network of Eurofins laboratories.
This collaboration enables us to advance our methodologies and enhance our services. Additionally, maintaining open communication with entities such as the California Water Boards, monitoring ISO standard developments, and fostering relationships with universities and industry are key aspects of our approach. Through these collaborations, we have contributed to the publication of six peer-reviewed papers, showcasing our work and contributions in this area.
Work is currently underway to broaden the scope of accreditation into other matrices so watch this space!”