Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a soilSHOP?

The name soilSHOP stands for Soil Screening, Health, Outreach and Partnership. It is an innovative health education and outreach tool for protecting people from the health effects from chemicals, like lead, in soils.

What happens at a soilSHOP event?

At a soilSHOP event, we:

  • Screen people’s yard soil for lead or other heavy metals at no cost to participant.
  • Give people same day soil screening results.
  • Talk to people one-on-one about how to reduce their exposures to lead and other harmful chemicals in soil.

Why should I go to a soilSHOP?

Community and urban gardening offer numerous benefits.  Some gardens may have chemicals like lead and other heavy metals in the soil from past use of lead-based paint and leaded gasoline, and from nearby industry.  At a soilSHOP, you can learn if your soil is contaminated with lead or other heavy metals.  You can bring in a small bag of soil from your yard or garden and have it screened for free.  You will get your soil screening result that same day.  You will also get information about how to reduce your exposures to contaminated soil and produce grown in this soil.

How can a soilSHOP be held?

A soilSHOP can be a stand-alone event or can be combined with other events. For example, a soilSHOP could be part of: (1) an annual lead prevention/awareness week, (2) an Earth Day event, (3) a community focused art program, (4) a community-based urban gardening program, (5) farmer’s market events in a community, or (6) school-based programs.  We tailor soilSHOPs to meet the needs of each community. 

How is my soil screened?

Trained soilSHOP staff screen soil using an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument.  The main benefit of the XRF is that it allows for quick, real-time soil screening results.  The XRF is a well-accepted and commonly used field instrument for screening soil for heavy metals like lead.

What are the limitations of the soilSHOP soil screening method?

Although the XRF is a well-accepted and commonly used field instrument for screening soil, limitations exist to this type of screening. 

Some limitations include:

  • Sample preparation and moisture content may affect the precision and accuracy of the result. 
  • Soil samples may not be representative of an entire yard or neighborhood.
  • Soil screening results will likely vary widely depending on factors such as where the sample was collected in the yard, at what depth it was collected, and what the conditions of the soil were at the time of sampling.

Soil screening results from a soilSHOP event won’t tell people what the levels or lead or other chemicals are in untested areas of their yard.  Therefore, we give people information about how to get additional soil testing done if they are concerned about lead levels in the rest of their yard.  

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Page last reviewed: July 11, 2016