Environmental Alphabet Soup

As it is with most industries, nick names and acronyms and shortened words become the norm. And our industry is certainly no exception! How many of us need to occasionally refer to a reference sheet or guide to remind ourselves what some of this alphabet soup means?

Take a peak below at some common chemical names, quality terms, and testing terms that can help you interpret some of this Environmental Alphabet Soup!


  • BTEX           Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylenes
  • CFCs            Chlorofluorocarbons
  • DCA             Dichloroethane
  • DRO             Diesel Range Organics
  • EDB             Ethylene Dibromide
  • EOX             Extractable Organic Halides
  • GRO             Gasoline Range Organics
  • HAA             Haloacetic Acids
  • IOC               Inorganic Contaminants
  • MTBE          Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether
  • PAHs            Polynulear Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • PCBs             Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • PCE               Tetrachloroethene
  • SOC               Synthetic Organic Chemicals
  • TBA               Tertiary Butyl Alcohol
  • TCDD            Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin
  • TCE               Trichloroethylene
  • TTHM           Total Trihalomethanes
  • TOC              Total Organic Carbon
  • TOX              Total Organic Halogen
  • TPH              Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons


  • AL                    Action Level
  • CAL                 Calibration Standard
  • CV                    Calibration Verification
  • DQO                Data Quality Objectives
  • EQL                 Estimated Quantitation Limit
  • FB                    Field Blank
  • IDC                  Initial Demonstration of Capability
  • IDL                  Instrument Detection Limit
  • IS                     Internal Standards
  • LCS                 Laboratory Control Spike (Blank Spike)
  • LCS Dup        Laboratory Control Spike Duplicate
  • LOD                Limit of Detection
  • LPC                 Laboratory Performance Check
  • MDL               Method Detection Limit
  • MS/MSD       Matrix Spike/Matrix Spike Duplicate
  • PQL                Practical Quantitation Limit
  • PT                   Proficiency Test Study
  • QA                  Quality Assurance
  • QAPP             Quality Assurance Project Plan
  • QC                  Quality Control
  • RRF               Relative Response Factor
  • RL                  Reporting Limit
  • RPD               Relative Percent Difference (Precision)
  • RT                  Retention Time
  • SOP                Standard Operating Procedures


  • AST              Above ground Storage Tank
  • BOD5           Biological Oxygen Demand – 5 day
  • BNA             Base/Neutral Acids Semi-Volatiles by GC/MS
  • COC             Chain of Custody
  • COD             Chemical Oxygen Demand
  • DO               Dissolved Oxygen
  • ECD             Electron Capture Detector
  • EDD             Electronic Data Deliverable
  • FID               Flame Ionization Detector
  • GC                 Gas Chromatography
  • GC/MS         Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy
  • HEM             Hexane Extractable Materials
  • HEM-SGT   Hexane Extractable Materials-Silica Gel Treatment
  • HPLC           High Performance Liquid Chromatography
  • IC                  Ion Chromatograph
  • ICP                Inductively Coupled Plasma
  • ICP/MS        Inductively Coupled Plasma / Mass Spectrometer
  • IDW              Investigation Derived Waste
  • LUST            Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
  • MBAS           Methylene Blue Active Substances (Surfactants)
  • MCL              Maximum Contaminant Level
  • MNA             Monitored Natural Attenuation
  • ORP              Oxidation Reduction Potential
  • PID               Photo Ionization Detector
  • PNA              Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • PP/PPL        Priority Pollutants/Priority Pollutant List
  • PP+40          Priority Pollutant List plus 40 TICs (Tentatively Identified Compounds)
  • ppb                Parts Per Billion (ug/L or ug/Kg)
  • ppm              Parts Per Million (mg/L or mg/Kg)
  • RFI                RCRA Facility Investigation
  • RI/FS            Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study
  • SIM               Selective Ion Mode
  • SPLP             Synthetic Precipitation Leaching Procedure
  • SVOC            Semi-Volatile Organic Compound  (BNAs)
  • SWMU         Solid Waste Management Unit
  • TAL               Target Analyte List (Metals and Cyanide)
  • TAT               Turn Around Time
  • TCL               Target Compound List (VOA, SVOA, Pest/PCBs)
  • TCLP            Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure
  • TIC                Tentatively Identified Compound
  • TPH              Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons
  • TRPH           Total Recoverable Hydrocarbons
  • UCMR          Uncontaminated Monitoring Rule
  • UST              Underground Storage Tank

About the Author…Beth is an Environmental Professional, Technical Resource and Customer Service Advocate serving as Business Development Manager for Suburban Testing Labs since 2013.  She has over 25 years of industry experience, and enjoys engaging in technical discussions, presenting topics of relevance, and networking.  Visit her LinkedIn Profile to connect, or email her at