Evidence of canister contamination causing false positive detections in vapor intrusion investigation results

Authors: T. McHugh, C. Villarreala, L. Beckley, S. Rauch
Published: September 2018 in Soil and Sediment Contamination: An International Journal.


We have utilized the California GeoTracker database to evaluate field duplicate variability and the significance of sample contamination for groundwater and vapor samples collected from contaminated sites in California. Vapor duplicates are more variable than water duplicates with median percent difference in concentration of 25% compared to 7% for water samples. In addition, large differences in concentration were more common in vapor duplicates. For vapor analyte pairs, 20% of pairs had a percent difference in concentration of >300% while, for groundwater analyte pairs, only 3% had a percent difference of >300%. Contamination of samples during collection or analysis is also more significant for vapor samples. For water samples, sample contamination appears unlikely to result in false positive exceedances of drinking water standards; however, for vapor samples, sample contamination may result in false positive exceedances of indoor air screening values. For vapor samples, the use of reusable canisters and flow controllers is likely an important source of sample contamination.

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