Beta Analytic – We Don’t Accept Samples with Labelled 13C, 12C, or 14C

ISO/IEC 17025:2017-accredited Beta Analytic, Inc., is a NATURAL LEVEL ISOTOPE LABORATORY.

As part of its commitment to ensure the highest-quality results to its clients, ISO/IEC 17025:2017-accredited Beta Analytic does not, and has never, accepted samples for radiocarbon (14C) dating or the measurement of stable isotopes such as 13C, 12C, Nitrogen, Oxygen or Deuterium, that have in any way been enriched, labeled, depleted, or otherwise manipulated from their natural levels (i.e., as originally occurring in nature).

If samples containing enriched, labeled, depleted, or otherwise manipulated 14C, 13C, 12C, Nitrogen, Oxygen or Deuterium are submitted for analysis and their activities / abundances in any way damage equipment, interrupt operations or cause the loss or reanalysis of any samples to occur, the submitter will accept and bear complete financial responsibility for all associated costs, which can be prohibitive.

Eliminate Any Cross-Contamination Risks

Areas where cross-contamination might occur include, but are not limited to:

  • biomedical or nuclear reactors,
  • isotope enrichment / depletion columns,
  • water, soil, plant, or air samples collected near or at biomedical / nuclear reactor sites, medical, industrial, or hazardous waste sites,
  • samples specifically manipulated to study the uptake / fractionation of stable isotopes due to biological or metabolic processes.

A common example:

Pharmaceutical companies evaluate drug metabolism by using a radio-labeled version of the drug under investigation. Tracer (artificially labeled or HOT) 14C is used as a tracer because it can easily substitute 12C atoms in the drug molecule, and it is relatively safe to handle. Tracer 14C is a well-known highly transmittable contaminant to natural level radiocarbon samples, and by association the chemistry laboratory and related accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) / isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) equipment that it comes into contact with or is analyzed by.

Since the Tracer 14C used in these types of pharmaceutical studies is phenomenally high (hundreds to tens of thousands of times greater than natural levels), once used in a laboratory it becomes ubiquitous and is virtually impossible to trace and or remove. Subsequent cross-contamination within a Biomedical AMS laboratory cannot be avoided. Although these levels of contamination are acceptable in a Biomedical AMS laboratory environment, they are not acceptable and must be avoided at all costs in a Natural Level AMS Radiocarbon (14C) dating laboratory.

Biomedical AMS facilities routinely measure tracer-level 14C samples that are hundreds to tens of thousands of times above the natural 14C levels found in archaeological, geological, water or biobased / biogenic samples. The 14C content from the biomedical samples is so high, even sharing personnel will pose a contamination risk; “Persons from hot labs should not enter the natural labs and vice versa” (Zermeño et al. 2004, pg. 294 (3)). These types of operations must be separate. Sharing personnel, equipment, chemistry lines, common areas or heating and air conditioning systems, runs the risk of contaminating Natural Level 14C archaeological, geological, water or biobased / biogenic samples.

Avoid the Risks

Find out from the lab that you are planning to use that they have never in the past and will never in the future:

  • accept, handle, graphitize or AMS count samples containing Tracer, Artificially Labeled or Hot 14C.
  • share any laboratory space, equipment, or personnel with anyone preparing (pretreating, combusting, acidifying, or graphitizing) samples that contain Tracer, Artificially Labeled or Hot 14C.
  • use AMS Counting Systems (including all beam-line components) for the measurement of samples that contain Tracer, Artificially Labeled or Hot 14C.
  • accept, handle, or analyze stable isotope samples that have in any way been enriched, labeled, depleted, or otherwise manipulated from their natural levels (i.e., as originally occurring in nature).

Tracer-Free Lab Required

Many federal as well as other commercial contracts specify that a radiocarbon (14C) AMS laboratory must be 14C tracer-free facility to be considered for participation in solicitations.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred® Program, and all biobased testing standards (ASTM D6866, ISO 16620, ISO 19984, EN 16640, EN 16785, EN 16807, EN 17035 and EN 17228) specifically require, that ONLY Natural Level Radiocarbon (14C) laboratories that are not exposed to artificial 14C can perform testing.

As a natural level radiocarbon laboratory, we highly recommend that researchers require the AMS laboratory processing their samples to be completely tracer-free in all regards to their operation, equipment, and personnel.

NOTE: Some laboratories fail to meet these requirements. You should specifically ask the laboratory to verify that they are completely Tracer-Free, before submitting samples.

For inquiries, please email us at or call +(1) 305-662-7760.


1. Memory effects in an AMS system: Catastrophe and Recovery. J. S. Vogel, J.R. Southon, D.E. Nelson. Radiocarbon, Vol 32, No. 1, 1990, p. 81-83 doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.32.1252 (Open Access).

“ . . . we certainly do not advocate processing both labeled and natural samples in the same chemical laboratory.” “The long-term consequences are likely to be disastrous.”

2. Recovery from tracer contamination in AMS sample preparation. A. J. T. Jull, D. J. Donahue, L. J. Toolin. Radiocarbon, Vol. 32, No.1, 1990, p. 84-85 doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.32.1253 (Open Access).

“. . . tracer 14C should not be allowed in a radiocarbon laboratory. “ “Despite vigorous recent efforts to clean up the room, the “blanks” we measured had 14C contents equivalent to modern or even post‐bomb levels. “

3. Prevention and removal of elevated radiocarbon contamination in the LLNL/CAMS natural radiocarbon sample preparation laboratory. Zermeño, et. al. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms. Vol. 223-224, 2004, p. 293-297
doi: 10.1016/j.nimb.2004.04.058

“The presence of elevated 14C contamination in a laboratory preparing samples for natural radiocarbon analysis is detrimental to the laboratory workspace as well as the research being conducted.”

4. High level 14C contamination and recovery at XI’AN AMS center. Zhou, et. al. Radiocarbon, Vol 54, No. 2, 2012, p. 187-193 doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.54.16045

“Samples that contain high concentrations of radiocarbon (“hot” samples) are a catastrophe for low background AMS laboratories.” “In our case the ion source system was seriously contaminated, as were the preparation lines.”

Page Last Updated: November 2022