Screening for Soil Lead Using a Common Soil Test Method

  • John F. ObryckiEmail author
  • Kristen K. Minca
  • Nicholas T. Basta


Urban growers want to know about soil fertility and potential soil contamination. We investigated if a commonly used soil fertility test, the Mehlich-3 nutrient extraction, could be used for both of these purposes. The Mehlich-3 soil test has traditionally been used test to measure soil fertility (Mehlich Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 15:1409–1416, 1984). It is routinely available at soil test laboratories and is typically not cost prohibitive. While it has been used to measure plant nutrients, it is relatively simple for laboratories to include Pb in the suite of elements that are analyzed. Our results indicate that the soil fertility test results can provide a soil test screening value for Pb. Using a routine extraction provides a cost effective and rapid way for urban farmers to assess whether their soil is contaminated, in addition to evaluating soil nutrient levels.


Urban Grower Urban Soil Soil Test Soil Contaminant Soil Testing Laboratory 
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Additional Resources

  1. Soil lead (Pb) is a well-studied contaminant and is discussed widely, including within extension publications, newspaper articles, peer-reviewed articles, and web sites. For the peer-reviewed literature related to using common soil tests to screen for contaminants, you may be interested in the following:Google Scholar
  2. Additional information regarding California soil Pb standards can be found here:Google Scholar
  3. Revised California Human Health Screening Levels for Lead,
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains an extensive web site about Pb:
  5. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains an extensive website about Pb:

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Obrycki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristen K. Minca
    • 1
  • Nicholas T. Basta
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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