Skip to main content
EU Science Hub

Reference materials for environmental analysis

The JRC provides state-of-the-art certified reference materials as quality assurance and quality control tools for the implementation of EU environmental policies.

ERM-CA400 mercury in seawater (3)
ERM-CA400 mercury in seawater
@EC, 2022

The protection of the environment is amongst the highest priorities worldwide. The identification of environmental pollution is based on monitoring campaigns that periodically assess the quality of our water, soil and air. The reliability and comparability of the analytical data produced in this context are a crucial point for management of the environment in general, e.g. taking decisions and meaningful actions in remediation policies. The European Commission has, for several years, adopted comprehensive legislation to improve the quality of Europe's nature as a whole.

The JRC provides state-of-the-art certified reference materials as quality assurance and quality control tools for the implementation of EU environmental policies. By using the reference materials for calibration and method validation, laboratories can demonstrate that their measurement results are traceable, or in other words that they are globally comparable.

Environmental samples analysed by control laboratories span a huge variety of combinations of different substances and different matrices. The JRC works towards the development and production of environmental reference materials that are still missing in the global landscape, in an effort to fill the existing gaps and respond to the needs of monitoring laboratories. Following the new focus of legislation and competent authorities toward "less traditional" pollutants, the JRC environmental reference materials programme is presently tuned and directed to the provision of materials certified for novel or emerging pollutants and characterised by a more "fresh-like" matrix type.

Water, biota, sediment

The EU Water Framework Directive and its daughter Directives set out the objectives for remedying polluted waters and for quality standards to protect water. A list of chemical substances of greatest concern for European coastal and surface waters, the priority substances, has been established and is regularly updated.

Similarly, the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive set up rules for the protection and quality of seawater within the European Union.

JRC-IRMM sells and develops suitable reference materials for substances on the priority list in fresh water and sea water, and related matrices such as biota and sediment.

Soil and sewage sludge

Sustainable primary production depends to a large extent on the natural fertility of soil. It is a vital and largely non-renewable resource. Contamination, soil erosion, the overall decline in soil quality and the sealing of soil are major problems across the EU. The JRC offers different types of soil, sludge amended soil, sewage sludge of domestic and industrial origin reference materials certified for major and trace elements, as well as organic contaminants.

Air quality

The Air Quality Directive and its daughter directive require the monitoring of a range of parameters. Examples of certified reference materials provided by the JRC in this field are: PAHs and selected heavy metals in a PM10-like dust, trace elements or dioxins in fly ash, and platinum group elements in road dust.

More information:

Directive 2013/39/EU amending Directives 2000/90/EC and 2008/105/EC as regards priority substances in the field of water policy.

Directive 2009/90/EC on technical specifications for chemical analysis and monitoring of water status

Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe

All reference materials available at JRC can be found in the reference materials catalogue

To find out more about the JRC's work on similar topics, explore the related JRC portfolios:

Father with small children working outdoors in garden, sustainable lifestyle concept.

Zero pollution for planetary health - Integrated responses.