Pretreatment is the term that is used to describe the processes used to isolate the required carbon fraction from a sample for radiocarbon dating.

In most cases, the desired fraction is carbon from molecules indigenous to the organism when it was alive. Isolating it means removing any contaminating organic materials that may have been introduced later.

Step 1: Physical pretreatment

The first step for all samples submitted to the laboratory is physical examination and cleaning. It may seem obvious, but identification labels and descriptions are examined carefully to insure that what we are about to analyse is what the submitter thinks they have submitted.

Step 2: Chemical pretreatment

The objective in chemical pretreatment is to remove any contaminants in the sample that can be made soluble by heating in a series of chemicals. While pretreatment procedures are standardized according to our QA manual, they must also remain flexible to take into account the varying condition of the samples submitted to the laboratory.