Basic Metals Screen
The Safe Soil UK Basic Metals Screen covers ten common metals that can be present in urban and rural soils, in some cases at levels that can contaminate growing spaces and pose serious risks to our health. Chief among these are the big three of lead, mercury and arsenic.
Lead is toxic to humans as well as animals through the food chain and soil dust inhalation or ingestion. Lead poisoning is often due to ongoing low-dose exposure however, because its symptoms are predominantly emotional and mental in nature, it is not easily spotted. Children are at greatest risk but it’s also dangerous to adults with accumulations in the body resulting in kidney and nervous system damage, anaemia, stroke and cancer. Sources of lead contamination include mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling activities, and, in some cases, the continued use of leaded paint, leaded gasoline and leaded aviation fuel. It is also used in many other products, for example pigments, paints, solder, stained glass, lead crystal glassware, ammunition, ceramic glazes, jewellery, toys and in some cosmetics and traditional medicines.
Meanwhile the inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure to different mercury compounds can lead to neurological and behavioural disorders. Symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction. The burning of coal is a major source of mercury in the environment. It is also used in a variety of products including some lightbulbs, batteries, cosmetics and paints. Another source of mercury in the environment is cremation, which turns dental amalgams containing mercury into gases that are released into the air.
Arsenic is toxic and is taken up by plants as they grow, which means it can make its way into our food. Its use in many applications has either been banned or phased out but some is may still be in use to produce copper chrome arsenate (CCA), a wood preservative and pesticide. Long-term exposure produces lung tumors via inhalation and a range of cancers via the oral route (most clearly cancer of the skin, bladder and lung). Human activity has resulted in the widespread atmospheric deposition of arsenic from the burning of coal and the smelting of non-ferrous metals including copper. Agricultural practice including the historical use of arsenic-based pesticides and ongoing application of fertilisers, sludges and manures containing arsenic has resulted in the accumulation of arsenic in topsoils.
The full list of elements covered in the Basic Metals Screen is as follows:
We will send you a testing kit that includes a soil sample bag, instructions on how to take a sample from your growing space. When you're done, place the two-thirds full sample bag back in the box that will have a pre-paid postage address label already affixed, seal it and pop the package into a Royal Mail post box or drop it off at a local post office.