Determination of As, Cd, Cu, Hg and Pb in biological samples by modern electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry

Jordi Sardans, Fernando Montes, Josep Peñuelas

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    119 Citations (Scopus)


    Pollution from heavy metals has increased in recent decades and has become an important concern for environmental agencies. Arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury and lead are among the trace elements that have the greatest impact and carry the highest risk to human health. Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS) has long been used for trace element analyses and over the past few years, the main constraints of atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) methods, namely matrix interferences that provoked high background absorption and interferences, have been reduced. The use of new, more efficient modifiers and in situ trapping methods for stabilization and pre-concentration of these analytes, progress in control of atomization temperatures, new designs of atomizers and advances in methods to correct background spectral interferences have permitted an improvement in sensitivity, an increase in detection power, reduction in sample manipulation, and increase in the reproducibility of the results. These advances have enhanced the utility of Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS) for trace element determination at μg L-1 levels, especially in difficult matrices, giving rise to greater reproducibility, lower economic cost and ease of sample pre-treatment compared to other methods. Moreover, the recent introduction of high resolution continuum source Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (HR-CS-ETAAS) has facilitated direct solid sampling, reducing background noise and opening the possibility of achieving even more rapid quantitation of some elements. The incorporation of flow injection analysis (FIA) systems for automation of sample pre-treatment, as well as chemical vapor generation renders (ETAAS) into a feasible option for detection of As and Hg in environmental and food control studies wherein large numbers of samples can be rapidly analyzed. A relatively inexpensive approach with low sample consumption provide additional advantages of this technique that reaches figures of merit equivalent to Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Herein is presented an overview of recent advances and applications of (ETAAS) for the determination of As, Cd, Cu, Hg and Pb in biological samples drawn from studies over the last decade. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)97-112
    JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part B Atomic Spectroscopy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


    • Biomass
    • Environment
    • GFAAS
    • Pollution
    • Trace elements

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