The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CTDEP) mobile lab has demonstrated the application of Cerno Bioscience's MassWorks software for improving the accuracy and timeliness of on-site identification of unknown chemical compounds by GC/MS in time-critical environmental and homeland security incidents. Results of the study were recently presented at the 2008 OnSite meeting for Homeland Security, Forensics, and Environmental Remediation in Baltimore, MD. The approach utilizes Cerno's Massworks CLIPS (Calibrated Line-shape Isotope Profile Search) to provide accurate formula ID of unknowns. This is used as complementary information to improve the accuracy of established EPA methods which utilize digital library searches. This method could lead to more accurate and timely information to assist in critical decision making for incident commanders and federal and local law enforcement in emergency situations.
GC/MS is the tool of choice for the rapid identification of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Standard EPA methods cover the identification of over 200 compounds of environmental concern and this new method provides extremely sensitive and accurate identification of these compounds. However, for compounds that are not characterized by this method, a significant uncertainty can exist when using GC/MS library search routines for identification. Misidentification can lead to an expensive, and/or potentially dangerous or fatal incorrect response by first responders and law enforcement. Uncertainties or delays in confident identification can also contribute to high costs and consume valuable public resources.
The CTDEP utilizes a unique mobile laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation including GC/MS systems. These GC/MS instruments are charged with the on-site, rapid identification of unknown chemical compounds in time-critical environmental and homeland security incidents.
The development of improved methods for rapid unknown compound ID could potentially be beneficial for first responder situations, and prove valuable in general analysis of unknowns for pharmaceuticals, flavors and fragrances, impurities and degradents and other applications requiring GC/MS.