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Summary and evaluation of pesticides in field blanks collected for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 1992-95

Open-File Report 98-412

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Abstract

Field blanks are quality-control samples used to assess contamination in environmental water samples. Contamination is the unintentional introduction of a chemical (pesticides in this instance) into an environmental water sample from sources such as inadequately cleaned equipment, dirty hands, dust, rain, or fumes. Contamination causes a positive bias in analytical measurements that may need to be considered in the analysis and interpretation of the environmental data. Estimates of pesticide contamination in environmental water samples collected for the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program are used to qualify, where needed, interpretations of the occurrence and distribution of pesticides in the surface and ground waters of the United States. Field blanks collected from 1992 to 1995 as part of the NAWAQA Program were analyzed for 88 pesticides and pesticide metabolites. Of 47 pesticides determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, 23 were detected at least once in 175 surfacewater field blanks and 15 were detected at least once in 145 ground-water field blanks. The most frequently detected pesticides in surface-water field blanks were atrazine (in 10.9 percent of blanks), simazine (9.1 percent), and metolachlor (4.6 percent). The most frequently detected pesticides in ground-water field blanks were p,p?-DDE (4.1 percent) and atrazine (2.8 percent). The maximum pesticide concentration detected by gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry in a surfacewater field blank was 0.120 microgram per liter (mg/L) for pronamide; the maximum concentration detected in a ground-water field blank was 0.013 mg/L for chlorpyrifos and prometon. Of 41 pesticides determined by high-performance liquid chromatography, diuron and 2,4-D were detected once in 109 surface-water field blanks and bromacil, diuron, and fenuron were detected once in 104 ground-water field blanks. Except for a detection of 2,4-D at 0.230 mg/L, the detectable concentrations of these pesticides were less than or equal to 0.020 mg/L. Field blanks showed no evidence of contamination by most pesticides. Of the 88 pesticides for which the field blanks were analyzed, 63 were not detected in field blanks from surface-water sites and 70 were not detected in field blanks from ground-water sites. Therefore, environmental data for the pesticides not detected in field blanks can be interpreted without qualification for contamination. Field blanks did show evidence of contamination by some pesticides. Most of the pesticides detected in field blanks, however, were detected more frequently and at higher concentrations in environmental water samples. Two criteria were used to evaluate the need to consider contamination in water-quality assessments: (1) a ratio of the frequency of pesticide detection in environmental water samples to the frequency of detection in field blanks of 5.0 or less and (2) a ratio of the median concentration detected in environmental water samples to the maximum concentration detected in field blanks of 2.0 or less. These criteria indicate that contamination, for the majority of the pesticide data collected for the NAWQA Program, probably does not need to be considered in the analysis and interpretation of (1) the frequency of pesticide detection or (2) the median concentration of pesticides detected. Contamination must be considered, however, in detection frequency for cispermethrin, pronamide, p,p?-DDE, pebulate, propargite, ethalfluralin, and triallate in surface water and fenuron, benfluralin, pronamide, cis-permethrin, triallate, chlorpyrifos, trifluralin, propanil, p,p?-DDE, bromacil, dacthal, diazinon, and diuron in ground water. Contamination also must be considered in median concentrations detected for pronamide, p,p?-DDE, propargite, napropamide, and triallate in surface water and benfluralin, cis-permethrin, triallate, chlorpyrifos, trifluralin, p,p?-DDE

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Summary and evaluation of pesticides in field blanks collected for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, 1992-95
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
98-412
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
viii, 102 p. :ill., map ;28 cm.