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How traceable is my analysis? – a discussion on legal traceability of chemical measurements and analyses in Australia

Y. Heng, R. Brittain and L. Mackay

National Measurement Institute, Sydney, United States


One of the major challenges of the 21st century for chemists is to have the ability, when required, to demonstrate the traceability, both legally and technically, of chemical measurements. Until recently, the infrastructure and means of demonstrating traceability for chemical and related analytical measurements were not readily available. Consequently, until recently, practitioners of chemistry have not generally had a heightened cultural awareness of the need to demonstrate traceability of chemical measurements. However, with the growing trend towards globalisation, there is increasing scrutiny of import and export commodities, - particularly when the unit price is governed by, and/or highly dependent upon, the results of analytical measurements of a particular, and often valued, component. As a result, chemical measurements now play a greater role in the global commodity market than ever before. In the legal area, results of chemical analyses come under intense scrutiny, as evidenced by frequent challenges to evidential breathalyser readings, for example. Consequently, it is increasingly essential that laboratories and testing organisations are able to demonstrate traceability of a particular chemical measurement when required.

This paper outlines the legal metrology system in Australia and explores the responsibilities that this system requires of chemical measurements. The paper will present some specific scenarios where traceability of chemical measurements and/or analyses is required. Using these scenarios, it will highlight the means via which legal traceability of chemical measurements can be achieved and demonstrated in Australia.

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