A five day international workshop on Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) came to a close Friday August 29, 2014 at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The workshop mounted by the Chemistry Department and supported by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and the Pan Africa Chemistry Network brought together over 20 participants drawn from the African continent.
During the 2014 edition of the workshop that has been mounted annually for the last six years, participants were equipped with hands-on skills and competencies on how to analyze and interpret data using GC-MS instruments.
According to Dr. Steve Lancaster, Analytical Sciences Team Leader at Domino Printing, Cambridge, UK, deployment and use of GC-MS machines in Africa could significantly contribute to early identification and control of harmful compounds to humans, plants and animals.
Poisonous chemicals, Dr. Steve says, have decimated African biodiversity partly due to incapacity to detect them in commonly used agricultural and domestic products. He cited dwindling population of Vultures in the continent which research has linked to use of anti-inflammatory drugs in livestock.
“These chemicals moves up the food chain, positioning more animals and eventually find their way into waterways, posing greater danger to humans too,” averred Dr. Steve.
Steve’s sentiments are closely shared by Prof. Anthony Gachanja of JKUAT who says that uncontrolled use of pesticides in Kenyan farms posses environmental health hazards to the country as residues from such chemicals can easily percolate into rivers, dams and streams.
“In such circumstances, the GC-MS laboratories like the one we have here in JKUAT is very important as it enables analysis and unequivocal identification of harmful compounds,” explains Prof. Gachanja.
While presiding over the closing ceremony, Director of JKUAT’s Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology, Prof. Robert Kinywa challenged participants to cascade their knowledge to colleagues and students back in their respective countries.
To ensure participants are fully competent in a operate and maintain GC-MS laboratory, the workshop also saw the 17 participants taught how to operate and maintain such a facility.
And as the curtain came down on the workshop, participants were unanimous that its usefulness will go a long way in improving the continent’s well being.
Emmy Lema, a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology and Lecturer at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania could not hide her happiness at the end of the workshop.
“Now that am able to operate and maintain the machine, I will use my knowledge to undertake water research to ensure quality and safety while impacting the lives of my students,” Emmy revealed.
Gas Chromatography separates chemicals based on their volatility, or ease with which they evaporate into a gas while Mass Spectrometry is used to identify chemicals based on their structure.