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Sample contamination as a source of error in trace element analysis: an ever-present threat
  1. P Wainwright,
  2. C Sieniawska,
  3. P Cook
  1. Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University Hospital Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patrick Wainwright, Department of Laboratory Medicine, D-Level Pathology Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK; patrick.wainwright{at}

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Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry is now the method of choice in routine clinical biochemistry practice for measuring a wide variety of trace elements.1 It allows accurate and precise analysis of trace elements that are often found at low concentration. Many trace elements have essential biological functions. Depletion of these may cause deficiency syndromes while excessive accumulation of certain elements may cause toxicity.

Trace elements are ubiquitous and contamination is a constant threat that can compromise the integrity of results.1 ,2 There are multiple potential sources of contamination, including sample containers, glassware and plastics used during analysis, reagents and physical aspects of the instrumentation itself.

Iodine is an essential trace element and is an integral component of thyroid hormones that are essential for growth and development. Deficiency of iodine is …

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  • Contributors CS and PC conceived the study and designed the experiments. CS carried out the experiments. PW, CS and PC interpreted the results. PW wrote the initial draft of the paper. CS and PC reviewed the draft and made changes as appropriate.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.