The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducts chemical analysis of authentic samples from field missions through an international network of so called “designated laboratories”. These laboratories are (re)certified by the Director-General of the OPCW after successfully fulfilling three requirements:
- Successful participation in OPCW Proficiency Tests (separate tests for environmental samples and biomedical samples)
- Participation in a Proficiency Test at least once per year (potential waiver in case the laboratory analyzed authentic samples)
- Accreditation under ISO 17025 (or a highly similar standard)
- We are offering our clients all kinds of services to enable them to achieve the status of OPCW designation in the shortest possible time and in a sustainable manner so that the laboratory is also able to stay designated.
- This includes both a theoretical and practical introduction to the analytical challenges regularly encountered in OPCW Proficiency Tests including analytes, interferences and matrices.
- We offer in-depth training and guidance on writing reports following OPCW requirements. Reporting rules are detailed and at times highly complicated. Writing correct reports is a common challenge for new labs and can results in deep frustration when chemicals are identified correctly but are not accepted due to reporting errors.
Two types of Proficiency Tests
The OPCW conducts two types of Proficiency Tests under ISO17043 accreditation: One for environmental samples and one for biomedical samples. These Proficiency Tests lead to two separate designations. A lab can be designated for both types of analysis or just for one. The rationale for separate tests is based on the different analyze concentrations and sample matrices:
Environmental samples are regularly analyzed in concentrations >1ppm (part per million). This makes survey analysis possible (looking for everything and homing in on an compound for identification). Matrices can be virtually anything including wipe samples, soil, liquids (including different types of aqueous samples), munitions and munition fragments, decontamination solutions, laboratory or industrial waste, chemical reactor contents and many more. Labs regularly face challenging matrices and /or challenging analytes including those not present in any database.
Biomedical sample are regularly analyzed in concentrations in the pbb (part per billion) range. Survey analysis is not possible anymore and targeted analysis has to be conducted (checking for specific analytes). The most important matrices are blood (or blood plasma) and urine while in real samples tissue from deceased victim is also important. At present analysis focuses on nerve and blister agents by analysis of small molecule metabolites and protein adducts.
CCACT – The entry level test
For newcomers to OPCW Proficiency Tests there is also an entry level test available. The CCACT (CWC Chemical Analysis Competency Test) operates with simplified matrices and all spiking chemicals can be found in databases. This is an excellent training opportunity for new labs also because the results are not published in any official documents. This avoids embarrassment for unprepared laboratories and national authorities nominating these laboratories who then fail a Proficiency Test instead of using this learning opportunity.