Screening for soil contamination

_Lead image: Gathered around the Hanby Field Kit for detecting petroleum hydrocarbons._ **The soil testing methods listed on this page use different approaches to screen for contaminants**. In general, the data these methods produce are less accurate and precise than certified lab-based methods, but the methods are **more accessible in terms of materials, cost, and logistics**. Many screening methods are available as kits or portable units that can be used quickly in the field. ### Screening for heavy metals and organic compounds #### Overviews on Public Lab [notes:grid:screen-soil] #### Example methods and tools ##### Hanby Field Test Kit _Image: Learning about the Hanby Field Test Kit at the [Houston Barnraising](, by @zengirl2_ + _Tests for_: Organic contaminants (petroleum products, PAHs, PCBs) + _Advantages_: Tests can be done quickly in the field; relatively low cost per sample. + _Limitations_: Can be difficult to compare color if the sample is dark; other petroleum compounds might interfere with color changes and lead to inaccurate results interpretation. See more in this comment by @jjcreedon. Posts and wikis related to the `hanby-soil-kit` [nodes:hanby-soil-kit] ##### Nuestros Suelos: a low-cost toolkit for the participative assessment of soil degradation _Image: Soil testing toolkit by @sureta._ + _Tests for_: indicators of fertility (organic matter, carbonates, N-P-K, and pH) and presence of heavy metals (copper and arsenic). Posts and wikis related to `nuestros-suelos` [nodes:nuestros-suelos] ##### Portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer _Image: Portable XRF in the field. [USDA photo by Lance Cheung](, [CC0]( + _Tests for_: Metals. + _Advantages_: Tests are relatively non-destructive and can be done quickly in the field with portable or handheld units; high cost to purchase but options to rent units can lower costs relative to testing via lab analytical techniques. + _Limitations_: It might not be sensitive enough to detect metal concentrations that are relatively low but still above regulatory levels for toxicity (from [EPA Method 6200 doc]( Posts and wikis related to `xrf` [nodes:xrf] ##### Other methods + Public Lab community members came up with some ideas for soil testing in response to this question: [What are other ways to assess soil contamination, besides directly measuring contaminant concentrations?]( + This [spreadsheet lists several soil testing methods and tools](, including those for screening purposes. + This paper describes a reagent-based field test to screen for lead in soil: Landes F.C., Paltseva A., Sobolewski J.M., Cheng Z., Ellis T.K., Mailloux B.J., and van Geen A. 2019. A Field Procedure To Screen Soil for Hazardous Lead. Analytical Chemistry, 91: 8192-8198. [LINK to PDF]( ### Measuring effects of contaminants (toxicity) The screening methods listed above indicate relative or real amounts of a contaminant in a soil sample. But the amount of a contaminant in the soil doesn’t always translate into a predictable effect on living things. To learn about the potential for harmful impacts from contaminated soil, some people complement typical soil testing with tests for toxicity or “effect-based” tests. _Image: An example “effect-based test” is a bioassay. This image is of a lettuce seed bioassay showing longer roots in lettuce seeds that sprouted in distilled water (DW) compared to shorter roots in seeds exposed to different concentrations of ethyl acetate, a chemical that negatively affects growth. From [Waqas et al. 2013](, [CC BY]( Methods related to `effect-based-test` will appear here [wikis:effect-based-test] ### Questions about soil testing for screening purposes Questions tagged with `question:screen-soil-contamination` will appear here [questions:screen-soil-contamination] ### Activities on soil testing for screening purposes Activities tagged with `activity:screen-soil-contamination` will appear here [activities:screen-soil-contamination] ...

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