How to Choose Analytical Laboratory Services

 

Scientist using microscope courtesy M+P Labs      Laboratory testing apparatus    Analytical laboratory equipment

 

 Image Credits: M&P Labs |Chemsultants International | Cornell University

 

Analytical laboratories offer services that classify, assay and/or analyze chemical, material, biological, geological and environmental samples.  Since the breadth of services offered at individual laboratories varies significantly, most laboratories specialize in one or more areas.  Selecting the right analytical laboratory starts with determining which services are appropriate.

 

 

Types of Analytical Laboratory Services

 

By testing process:

 

  • Assays/Quantitative: An assay or quantitative analysis determines the amount or percentage of one or more constituents or components of a sample.
  • Deformulation/Reverse Engineering: Deformulation uses analytical procedures to identify a chemical substance's composition. Reverse engineering starts with a complete device, system, or software program and, by systematically disassembling it, determines how the study subject was put together.
  • Environmental Exposure: Environmental exposure testing uses methods that subject media to environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and UV or sunlight exposure.
  • Sunlight Exposure/Solar Simulation: Sunlight exposure or solar simulation testing evaluates a material or chemical product's resistance to UV or simulated sunlight exposure.

By substance tested:

  • Bioanalytical (Assays, Drug Discovery): Bioanalytical laboratories perform agricultural, biological, microbial, pharmaceutical and other life sciences testing and analysis services. As part of the larger field of biotechnology, these laboratories provide services throughout the drug development cycle, performing pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic screening and provide expertise with mammalian cell-based assays, biomarkers, radiochemistry, immunoassays, and electrophoresis.
  • Food and Beverage Testing: These laboratories perform tests to ensure that food and beverages are safe for human and animal consumption. They can also provide nutritional analyses including vitamins and sugars.
  • Cleanliness Monitoring/Testing: Cleanliness monitoring test samples from air, surfaces, and labware of a manufacturing, processing, or laboratory facility for contamination
  • Environmental Testing and Analysis Services: These laboratories provide testing of environmental samples such as soil, water, air, and industrial wastes or byproducts.
  • Failure Analysis: Failure Analysis testing determines how and why materials or components fail.
  • Industrial Hygiene Services: Laboratories offering industrial hygiene services test samples from workplaces and calculate potential exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Stack Emissions/Opacity Testing: Stack testing services take samples from a single sampling location in a facility and test for pollutant emission rates, concentration or other parameter. Opacity testing measures smoke emitted from gas- or diesel-fired vehicles.
  • Water Quality Monitoring /Audit Services: These services provide ongoing testing for ground water and surface water, for contaminants including organic and inorganic compounds, heavy metals, PCBs, and biological organisms.
  • Standards Testing/Certification: Standards testing services verify that materials meet established standards by organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
  • Toxicity/ Reactivity Testing: Toxicity/ reactivity analysis is used to determine the toxicity, reactivity, corrosivity, ignitability, or flammability of a substance.

 

Accrediting Bodies for Analytical Laboratories

 

Several organizations provide accreditation for US analytical laboratories and their services. In addition to the accreditors listed below, many specialized organizations provide examination and accrediting services for services such as environmental chemistry, weights and measures calibration, and so forth.

 

  • American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, a US-based nonprofit organization, inspects and accredits multiple kinds of laboratories and multiple industry-specific programs, such as testing required by the Consumer Product Testing Commission. Accreditation is based on ISO/IEC standards for competence (ISO/IEC 17025:2005).
  • Laboratory Accreditation Bureau is recognized in the US and internationally to perform laboratory accreditation for multiple types of testing and calibration services. Accreditation is based on ISO/IEC standards for competence (ISO/IEC 17025:2005).
  • National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program, a service of the US National Institute of Standards and Testing, offers programs for calibration laboratories and product testing, among others.

American Association for Laboratory Accreditation logo   Laboratory Accreditation Bureau logo National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation logo

 

Image Credits: American Association for Laboratory Accreditation | Laboratory Accreditation Bureau | National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program

 

 

Selecting an Analytical Laboratory

 

Here are questions to ask when choosing an independent laboratory. Not all will apply to every situation. 

  • Is the facility accredited by appropriate accrediting bodies?
  • How much experience does the lab have providing the services required? What are staff members' training and qualifications?
  • Can the facility provide a list of customers and customer references?
  • Is the facility independent, or is it part of a company with other lines of business?
  • What purpose(s) will the analysis results serve? Is the work necessary for regulatory submission or are the data garnered from primary research?
  • Can the laboratory perform all of the requisite analyses?
  • Does the laboratory perform all of its analyses in-house? If not, does the original laboratory require that all subcontracting labs meet standards that are acceptable to you?
  • How does the facility validate test results?
  • How long will it take to get results?
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