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Proficiency Testing (PT) Programs

The Information and Quality Management group is accredited as a Proficiency Testing Provider by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation and meets the ILAC G-13:2007 Guidelines for the Requirements for the Competence of Providers of Proficiency Testing (comprising ISO Guide 43-1:1997, as well as relevant elements of ISO/IEC 17025:2005 applicable to characterization, homogeneity and stability testing of proficiency testing materials), and the management system requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2005, which includes the principles of ISO 9000:2005.

View the Certificate of Accreditation and the Scope of Accreditation.

The Environment Canada PT Program is comprised of two PT studies, offered on a semi-annual basis, and scheduled in the summer and winter months. These studies are designed, prepared and distributed on a cost-recovery basis to environmental laboratories in Canada and around the world. The purpose of the program is to identify sources of measurement uncertainties and variation among analytical results, and to provide information on overall data quality and reliability.

The Group delivers PT programs for third-party assessment of the performance of participating laboratories. These include the Metals in the Human Environment Research Network (MITHE-RN) and international agencies around the world.

The IQM Group collaborates with CALA (the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation) to provide a significant portion of the proficiency testing samples for the national environmental accreditation program. These PT activities are the basis of performance assessment and lead to the granting of accreditation to participating laboratories by CALA.

Description and Purpose  

Environment Canada provides accredited proficiency testing (PT) studies for a wide range of inorganic constituents in water.  These PT Studies are designed to quantify laboratory performance and improve the quality of environmental data.  This program has contributed to a remarkable improvement in participating laboratories’ data quality.  Reports produced from the client data provide a powerful tool for the continual improvement of the quality of analytical results.

Benefits of participating in a PT program:

  • fulfils a requirement of ISO 17025
  • objectively assesses and demonstrates the accuracy of lab analyses
  • improves the caliber of the laboratory
  • confirms methods and analyst performance

The EC PT program includes:

  • all lab codes are strictly confidential
  • two months to analyze and submit laboratory data
  • preliminary data assessments are sent three weeks after results are due
  • laboratory proficiency appraisals are sent to participants
  • z-score summaries are sent to participants
  • a final data summary is mailed to participants and concludes the study
  • 25% discount for first time participants!

Study Plan  

The studies are offered twice a year and consist of six ‘sample sets’ per study with ten samples in each set.  

The summer study includes

  1. rain and soft waters (RN)
  2. major ions and nutrients (MI)
  3. trace elements in water (TE)
  4. total phosphorus in water (TP)
  5. turbidity in water (TU)
  6. (a) trace elements in sediment (SED)-five samples only

The winter study includes

  1. rain and soft waters (RN)
  2. major ions and nutrients (MI)
  3. trace elements in water (TE)
  4. total phosphorus in water (TP)
  5. turbidity in water (TU)
  6. (b) total mercury in water (HG).

The samples are prepared in natural background waters from lakes, rivers or rainwater, and are fortified or preserved as necessary.  The trace elements in water samples are generally divided to reflect both low and high concentration ranges.  Participating laboratories submit results for parameters they routinely analyze.  Analytical results are submitted electronically for assessment. 

Environment Canada PT Studies are scheduled to provide final reports and rankings in March and September.  This allows laboratories to identify potential problem areas prior to the mandatory CALA PT that is required for CALA accreditation in Canada.

Data Evaluation

Laboratory evaluations and performance statistics are calculated using a robust analysis for the number of usable test results.

Laboratory bias (ISO 13528:2005{E}, Section 7.1.1) is calculated as D = x-X, where D is the deviation, x is the test result and X is the assigned value.  This deviation, normalized with the robust standard deviation (Annex C, Robust Analysis) is evaluated with the z-score (ISO 13528:2005{E}, Section 7.4).

Systemic bias is indicated when the analytical results of a parameter are ranked, by the Youden non-parametric analysis, to be consistently and significantly higher or lower than the assigned value.  Systemic bias may be indicated by the Youden rankings even when the test results have not been flagged for deviation from the assigned value.

Laboratory performance is ranked in terms of biased parameters (systematic bias) and flagged results (precision of measurement).  Laboratories are assigned a ‘rating’ based on the sum of biased parameters and flagged results expressed as a percentage: Good- 0 to 5%, Satisfactory- >5 to 12.5%, Moderate- >12.5 to 30% or Poor- >30%.


Ranking Laboratories by Round Robin Tests, W.J. Youden, Precision Measurement and Calibration, H.H. Ku, Editor, NBS Special Publication 300‑Volume 1, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1969.

Pricing and Ordering Information

Proficiency Testing WATERS

  1. rain and soft waters (RN): 10 samples x 500 mL is $500 CAD
  2. major ions and nutrients (MI): 10 samples x 500 mL is $500 CAD
  3. trace elements in water (TE): 10 samples x 500 mL is $500 CAD
  4. total phosphorus in water (TP): 10 samples x 125 mL is $150 CAD
  5. turbidity in water (TU): 10 samples x 250 mL is $150 CAD
  6. (b) total mercury in water (HG): 10 samples x 125 mL is $250 CAD

Proficiency Testing SEDIMENTS

6. (a) trace elements in sediment (SED): 5 samples (5 to 35 g total) is $250 CAD


  • First time participation - Save 25% on the cost of each sample set
  • Participate in both studies per year (summer & winter) -Save 10% on the cost of winter sample sets
  • Order two different sample sets from 1, 2 or 3 (RN, MI or TE) -$900 CAD total (save $100 CAD)
  • Order one each of sample sets 1, 2 and 3 (RN, MI or TE) -$1200 CAD total (save $300 CAD)
  • Order two of the same sample sets from 1, 2 or 3 (RN, MI or TE) - $750 CAD total: $500 CAD for the first sample set and $250 CAD for the second sample set (save up to $150 CAD)

Prices are in Canadian dollars (CAD)

  • in Canada, prices are subject to 5% GST (Goods & Services Tax)
  • orders are shipped by courier;  shipping costs are added to your invoice
  • prices are subject to change without notice

For program information, please contact:

Haig Agemian
Chief, Information and Quality Management
Emergencies and Operational Analytical Laboratories and Research Support
Water Science and Technology Directorate
Environment Canada
867 Lakeshore Rd., P. O. Box 5050
Burlington , Ontario, Canada, L7R 4A6
Tel:   905-336-4679
Fax: 905-336-6404

For technical information and to place an order, please contact:

E-mail PTstudies
Tel: (905) 336-4926
Fax: (905) 336-8914

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