Element’s environmental laboratories provide analysis of water, leachate, waste, sediments, paint flakes, and soil to test for metals that are harmful to the environment and human health.

Our experts test for a wide range of metals using Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP), coupled with either Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) or Mass Spectrometry (MS). Common metals that are tested for include, but are not limited to, Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Selenium, Zinc, Beryllium, Boron, Aluminium, Iron, Silver, Tin, Uranium, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium.

Element also offers semi-quantitative scans. Reporting limits for the target metals are usually measured in ppb (parts per billion) but can be as low as ppt (parts per trillion).

Our laboratory can provide sample containers, filters, syringes and preservatives to assist with your testing needs.

Preparing soil samples for metals testing

Depending on which method is required, soil samples can be extracted using various acids such as HF, HNO3 or Aqua Regia and are digested in an enclosed system in a hot block or a microwave. Other extractions can be used for available metals such as EDTA or water. Once the metals are extracted the digested sample is filtered ready for analysis by ICP.

Soil samples have a maximum recommended holding time of six months, and if following best practice, should be sampled in an airtight container, kept cool, and out of direct sunlight.

Preparing water samples for metals testing

Water samples are acidified and filtered either in the laboratory or the field. Waters should be preserved with nitric acid to bring the pH to below 2. This converts or keeps the metals as soluble salts so that the metals cannot convert into insoluble salts, drop out of the solution and give an incorrect low value.

If dissolved metals testing is required, then samples should be filtered in the field through a 0.45µm filter into nitric acid. Once preserved, the recommended maximum holding time is six months.

If total metals testing in water is required, then adding nitric acid directly into the sampled water is acceptable. Metals will be leached from the solids present in the water and should only be carried out by qualified personnel.

Contact Element for more information on our analysis of soil and water, including metals and heavy metals testing.

metals testing in water and soil

Testing for metals using Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP)

Inductively Coupled Plasma is a technique that can determine concentrations of trace to major elements and can detect most elements in the periodic table.

A solution containing dissolved metals is aspirated through the nebuliser into the spray chamber of the ICP instrument, where it is mixed with argon gas to form a fine aerosol. This aerosol then passes into the plasma.

A series of solutions of known concentration are analysed to give a calibration curve for each element. The instrument software compares the samples to the calibration curves and calculates concentrations of each element.

Metals testing in Water and soil

Standards we test to

Our laboratories are accredited to ISO 17025 and we test to the following standards: 

  • ASTM E1613
  • MIL specifications
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Our team of over 6,700 Engaged Experts in North America, Europe, The Middle East, Australia, Asia and Africa are ready to help you.