Ultra Trace Determination of Bromate in Drinking Water by Microbore Column IC and ICP/MS

The chemical compound bromate is formed when drinking water is disinfected through ozonation. At mg/L levels, bromate is potentially carcinogenic to mice and rats. Based on recent toxicological studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified bromate as a group-2B carcinogen to humans, with concentrations greater than 0.05 g/L associated with kidney tumor risk. In view of this, the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has called for comments on setting bromate’s maximum contaminant level goal to zero.

Ultratrace determination of bromate in drinking water

In this study, the goal was to establish a method for routine determination of bromate in drinking water using IC with mass-spectrometric detection. The IC-ICP/MS technique was selected for its simplicity compared with other mass-spectrometric techniques. Using this technique, the presence of bromate in drinking water can be determined at concentrations in the sub-μg/L range. The sample does not have to be pre-treated and it takes 15 minutes to analyze a single sample.


A technique was developed to determine ultra-trace levels of bromate in drinking water by IC-ICP/MS. In this method, the microbore column method is used in combination with a self-made high-performance and high-capacity anion-exchanger. Direct analysis of almost all water samples was possible without matrix elimination, owing to the high capacity of the separation column and an optimized elution system based on NH4NO3. In addition, large injection volumes can be used. Due to the sensitivity of ICP/MS detection, there is no need for trace enrichment, meaning the sample does not have to be pre-treated.

In the mineral and drinking waters analyzed, the method detection limits for bromate were in the range of 50–65 ng/L, corresponding to absolute detection limits of 44 to 58 pg. The sample composition influenced the retention of bromate, as well as the signal-to-background (SBR) and signal-to-noise (SNR) ratios. At a concentration of 500 ng/L bromate, the within-run imprecision of the presented IC-ICP/MS coupling was 5%.

As shown in Figure 1, complete analysis took 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the sample’s bromide content. Given the sensitivity, precision, sensitivity and analysis duration of the described IC-ICP/MS coupling, it is well suited for accurate routine analysis of bromate content in drinking water at sub-μg/L levels.

Separation of 1 μg/L bromate, 100 μg/L bromide, and 100 μg/L monobromoacetic acid. Sample volume: 585 μL; column: self-made; eluents: 100 or 60 mmol/L nitric acid or 100 mmol/L hydrochloric acid, pH adjusted to 6 with ammonia (25% w/w); m/z 79

Figure 1. Separation of 1 μg/L bromate, 100 μg/L bromide, and 100 μg/L monobromoacetic acid. Sample volume: 585 μL; column: self-made; eluents: 100 or 60 mmol/L nitric acid or 100 mmol/L hydrochloric acid, pH adjusted to 6 with ammonia (25% w/w); m/z 79

Nowak, M.; Seubert, A. (1998) Anal. Chim. Acta 359, 193–204

Bromate – further applications with IC-ICP/MS

Comparison of ion chromatographic methods based on conductivity detection, post-column-reaction and on-line-coupling IC-ICP/MS for the determination of bromate Schminke, G.; Seubert, A. (2000) Fresenius J. Anal. Chem. 366(4), 387–391.

Trace analysis of bromate in drinking waters by means of online coupling IC-ICP/MS Seubert, A.; Nowak, M. (1998) Fresenius J. Anal. Chem. 360(7), 777–780.

Further applications with IC-ICP/MS


Measurement of sulphur isotope ratio (34S/32S) in uranium ore concentrates (yellow cakes) for origin assessment - Han, S:H.; Varga, Z.; Krajko, J.; Wallenius, M.; Song, K.; Mayer, K. (2013) J. Anal. At. Spetrom. 28(12), 1919–1925.


Characterization of an aluminium(III) citrate species by means of ion chromatography with inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry detection Peukert, A.; Seubert, A. (2009) J. Chrom. A 1216(45), 7946–7949.


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Last updated: May 16, 2020 at 5:24 PM


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