Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 90, Issue 1–2, pp 281–294 | Cite as

The effect of membrane filtration on dissolved trace element concentrations

  • Arthur J. Horowitz
  • Ken R. Lum
  • John R. Garbarino
  • Gwendy E. M. Hall
  • Claire Lemieux
  • Charles R. Demas


The almost universally accepted operational definition for dissolved constituents is based on processing

The almost universally accepted operational definition for dissolved constituents is based on processing whole-water samples through a 0.45-μm membrane filter. Results from field and laboratory experiments indicate that a number of factors associated with filtration, other than just pore size (e.g., diameter, manufacturer, volume of sample processed, amount of suspended sediment in the sample), can produce substantial variations in the ‘disolved’ concentrations of such elements as Fe, Al, Cu, Zn, Pb, Co, and Ni. These variations result from the inclusion/exclusion of colloidally-associated trace elements. Thus, 'dissolved' concentrations quantitated by analyzing filtrates generated by processing whole-water through similar pore-sized membrane filters may not be equal/comparable. As such, simple filtration through a 0.45-μm membrane filter may no longer represent an acceptable operational definition for dissolved chemical constituents. This conclusion may have important implications for environmental studies and regulatory agencies.


membrane filters filtration filtration artifacts dissolved major elements trace elements 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur J. Horowitz
    • 1
  • Ken R. Lum
    • 2
  • John R. Garbarino
    • 3
  • Gwendy E. M. Hall
    • 4
  • Claire Lemieux
    • 2
  • Charles R. Demas
    • 5
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Peachtree Business CenterAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Centre Saint-Laurent, Environment CanadaMontrealCanada
  3. 3.U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Analytical ServicesArvadaUSA
  4. 4.Geological Survey of CanadaOttawaCanada
  5. 5.U.S. Geological SurveyBaton RougeUSA
  6. 6.I.U.C.N.-World Conservation UnionMontrealCanada
  7. 7.MultisourcesMontrealCanada

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