Originally posted: May 25, 2017
Updated: January 2021
Every now and then I get soil samples to test, as part of an XRF Testing outreach event — in which I rent a state-of-the art X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (I am a trained, certified and experienced operator of these amazingly useful instruments), and folks wanting to test their stuff (vintage and modern dishes, kids toys, family heirlooms, etc.) chip in to cover the cost of renting the too-expensive-for-mortals-to-own-outright [>$40,000!] instrument and related costs for the event – usually with a focus on consumer goods testing.
If you are interested in having your soil tested you can either send me samples to test (or arrange to come by my house if you live in Portland, Oregon) in time for a date when you know I am going to be doing a round of testing OR you can send it to me any time and I will keep it in my storage area & hold on to it for the next time I do testing.
I do this as an advocacy opportunity to give people a low-cost option for having their soil tested.*
Legal Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with a lab and I am not a hazard assessor and I do not claim to be one. As I said, I am trained and certified in using a consumer-goods-testing-capable XRF (they are very different from the less expensive XRF instruments in common use that are designed and optimized for just testing housepaint to federal HUD standards) and am very knowledgeable in XRF testing and the implications of the results of this type of testing.
If I test something for you (soil or consumer goods) I do not print out and issue a formal report for you with your test results (legally, only a hazard assessor or a lab is permitted to do that) – however I will tell you in person (if you come to me with your soil) what the test results are and how to interpret them, and if you send me your soil, I will either call you on the phone or send you a brief informal summary e-mail with the results (and you can feel free to call or e-mail me in response if you have any questions.)
Here’s how to send me your soil samples (or bring them to me):
Instructions/ Important Things To Know
- Get your hands on some small sandwich size zip-lock bags [high-quality, brand-name ( Ziplock® or Hefty®) preferred]
- Include one empty, new/unused bag in what you bring or send me so that I can use that as a reference or “control” – to make sure the bags themselves do not have any trace lead (I have never found a bag to have lead, but it’s best practices to check anyway!)
- IMPORTANT: Make sure these ziplock bags are NOT the eco-friendly compostable (plant-derived plastic) ones [as they often start dissolving when they have moisture-containing soil in them!]
- Choose how many areas of soil you want tested (generally people test between 4 and 10 samples, but I can test as many as you like.)
- Get a spoon and scoop between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of the top soil / surface soil and put it in a baggie – I really do not need more than that (and collecting soil from under the surface can dilute the reading of any potential surface toxicants.)
- Clean the spoon between each sample (or use different clean spoons for each).
- For your reference mark each bag with your name, address, the date and time you collected it and the location on your lot (like “under cherry tree” or “in raised bed in front of yard.”)
- Dry soil is preferred, but slightly damp is fine, as long as it is NOT in a compostable baggie.
- Do not send me rocks (or soil containing pebbles) as it is much less likely to have lead at levels that I can test and it is not efficient to test soil with rocks with an XRF.
- FYI – in my experience, the darker/ loamier the soil, the more plant matter it contains and the less likely it is to test positive for even trace levels of lead; the dustier/ dirty (finer particle, lighter colored) it is, the more likely it is to have lead.
- I will tell you the XRF test results for lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium in parts per million (ppm) [if you come to me in person and I test in real time in front of you I will let you know any other metals found in the sample as well!]
- Each sample takes between 3 and 10 minutes to test (normally I do multiple tests on a sample to confirm the levels.) Each test I do is a minimum of 30 seconds and (depending on the levels) usually closer to one minute.
- I do not “save” the XRF results in any form other than what I write down for you to send you in an e-mail.
- Preferred method to get me your contribution to help cover the XRF rental costs is a Venmo contribution** @TamaraERubin (alternately PayPal to TamaraRubin@mac.com works) with a note in with the transaction: “To help with XRF rental & costs for soil testing.”
- Since I have to pay for the instrument rental in advance in most cases it is preferable to receive your contribution and confirm your participation in advance of the testing date.
- COST: My sliding scale on cost for this (contribution in support of the work)is $10 to $25 per sample. The suggested minimum contribution amount is $10 per sample (to help cover the XRF rental costs) [if you cannot afford to cover the $10 per sample I may be able to do it for free, please ask me – it depends on if the rental and related base costs are already covered by other participants. Sometimes I have folks contribute additional funds to help pay for the testing costs for lower income families as well – so please ask if there is anything in that “fund.”] If you have an emergency need / need an emergency turn around on results, please plan on paying $25 per sample.
- If you are bringing samples to me in person in Portland, Oregon, I live in the Sellwood neighborhood next to St. Agatha’s church and school; send me an e-mail or pm me on Facebook for the exact address and to set up a time.
- If you are coming to my house in person on a day I am doing testing, you may want to also bring one of your dishes from home (either a piece of your fine china or your every day dishes). Dishes are the most popular thing that folks have me test, and since you eat off of them every day, it is important to know if they are free of toxic heavy metals (or not)!
- Please e-mail me at above email address if you have any questions at all.
* I may or may not net any “profit” above and beyond the rental costs of the instrument (and related costs of the testing event) in doing this testing [renting the instrument costs between $750 – $2,750 a day depending on the instrument and the provider, plus shipping and insurance, and I also often have other costs for these events, including transportation (renting a car, etc.)].
**I am an independent lead-poisoning prevention advocate, I am not affiliated with any company or nonprofit organization for this sort of activity, so your contributions cover costs but are not a tax-deductible donation in any way.
***What’s in it for me (Tamara)? I do this primarily to help people, plus if others chip in to cover the XRF rental costs then while I have the instrument I can also piggyback little fun projects I want to do, like visit my friends homes and test consumer goods for them – and make the “GuerrillaXRFTesting” videos I have made with Carissa! I also take photos of the consumer goods I test for others and (eventually, when I have time!) post those on my website (and Facebook) so they are publicly available for folks to see and reference (and recently I also earn a little money from referral fees if people read my posts and choose to buy replacement products via Amazon affiliate links.)
You can also make a contribution** to help cover testing costs for another low income family.
(I get many requests for free testing every time I do this!)
Just PayPal $ to TamaraRubin@mac.com and let me know in the comment with your contribution**.