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What We Do: Environmental Analytical Chemistry

Former IOCD Working Group in Environmental Analytical Chemistry
For many years IOCD operated a Working Group (WG) In Environmental Analytical Chemistry which was formed in partnership with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The WG worked to enhance capacities for environmental chemical analysis and sustainable use of resources in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), addressing the need to ensure a sustainable environment encapsulated in Millennium Development Goal 7. The WG was wound up in 2013 and in due course will be succeeded by new IOCD initiatives on chemistry, analytical chemistry and the environment that address the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Below we present some highlights from the work of this important IOCD initiative and salute the many scientists who contributed to its success, including Walter Benson, Al Pohland, Jack Plimmer and René Van Grieken.
Aims and Achievements of the Working Group
Contamination of the environment can result from a wide range of human activities, including agriculture, industrial production, energy production and consumption and household activities. Analytical chemistry is a vital tool to help address concerns about the environment, enabling the detection and monitoring of levels of contamination of air, land and water.
IOCD's WG operated through collaboration with analytical chemists in LMICs to build their capacities as staff members and managers of analytical laboratories. These chemists need to produce test results that are accurate, reliable, and acceptable internationally, since the results are involved either in monitoring a country's environment (air, water and soils), or ensuring the quality and purity of agricultural or manufactured products intended for export.
IOCD's principal strategies were to:
  1. Organize workshops with analytical chemists and laboratory managers in LMICs to train them in analytical methods, metrology, and good laboratory practice; and
  2. Work directly with selected laboratories in LMICs to identify difficulties that prevent them from obtaining test results of sufficient accuracy and reliability when testing commodities for export. IOCD would then work with the laboratories to identify appropriate remedial measures.

The IOCD team's visit to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) in October 2005. Team members (rear, from left) Walter Benson, Albert Pohland and Geoffrey Kamau, shown with (front left) Anthonia Nakamya (head of the National Drug Authority Quality Control Laboratory in the Uganda National Drug Authority) and Hope Kamusiime (head of the Chemistry Section at UNBS).
Examples of projects that were conducted by the WG in Environmental Analytical Chemistry include:
  • Latin America: Workshop for Analytical Chemists in Latin America, held in March 1998 in Montevideo, Uruguay, and co-sponsored by the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Uruguay.
  • Central and Eastern Europe: Workshop for Regulatory Chemists and Laboratory Managers in Central and Eastern Europe, held in Prague in 1999 and co-sponsored by the Czech government, the Czech Chemical Society, and Charles University.
  • Africa: IOCD conducted a range of activities to help build capacity for environmental analytical chemistry within Africa, including:
    • Workshop on Problems Related to Mining in Africa, held in September 2000 at Potchefstroom University and co-sponsored by the South African Chemical Institute.
    • Cameroon: In 2002 IOCD collaborated with the International Science Foundation (IFS) and other agencies in convening a Scientific Instrumentation Workshop. Scientists from several African countries met at Cameroon's University of Buea to discuss challenges to identifying, purchasing, maintaining and repairing scientific equipment. Click here to learn more about IFS, with which IOCD has collaborated for a number of years. For a detailed analysis of the state of science in Africa, see the UNESCO Science Report 2005, pages 177-201.
    • Uganda: In agreement with the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, the IOCD WG has partnered with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to strengthen its capacity to test export commodities to international standards. In October 2005, IOCD scientists provided technical consulting to seven Ugandan Commodity Testing Laboratories engaged in testing commodities for export. Click here to read more about this visit and its findings. Follow-up was maintained and UNBS continued to enhance its capabilities for internationally acceptable analytical methodology — for example, in 2011 receiving certification from the South African National Accreditation System as an accredited calibration laboratory.
    • Pan-African networks: IOCD has supported capacity-building meetings and workshops organized by African analytical chemists themselves, for example in laboratory management and in practical analytical techniques, including the analysis of pesticide residues and water quality. Two examples were the workshop of the Southern and Eastern Africa Network of Analytical Chemists (SEANAC) in Botswana in July 2007 and the conference of the Eastern and Southern Africa Laboratory Managers Association (E-SALAMA) in Zimbabwe in December 2007.

From left: IOCD Scientists Al Pohland, Walter Benson and Patrick Wilson consult with Ugandan economist Nicodemus Rudaheranwa
IAEA-IOCD-TEAC Joint Workshop Focuses On Air Particulate Matter
Because of increasing urbanization, the rise in vehicle emissions and the trend towards greater industrialization, urban air quality in many countries is worsening. This is notably the case in Africa, where currently 38% of the continent's population is living in urban areas and it is estimated that this proportion will rise to 54% by 2030. A large number of African countries have begun to adopt air quality management legislation, regulations, or policies as a consequence of the high concentration of air pollution, particularly in the large cities, and its adverse effect on human health. Other countries are recognizing the need for improving air quality and moving to control emissions. The active involvement of the environmental quality management agencies in the African countries is an indication of their interest in improving air quality, particularly to demonstrate that the new control measures are having their intended effects and that specific sources of pollution are being reduced as control measures are introduced.
Analytical chemistry has a vital role to play in supporting these efforts to improve air quality and reduce health risks.
In collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission (TAEC), IOCD's Environmental Analytical Chemistry Working Group organized a workshop in Arusha in 2011, which focused on the analysis of air particulate matter. The report of this workshop and the outcomes can be downloaded here.
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