Comparison of techniques for the analysis of industrial soils by atomic spectrometry

Peter Anderson, Christine M. Davidson, David Littlejohn, Allan M. Ure, Louise M. Garden, John Marshall

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Methods based on AAS, ICP-AES and XRFS have been developed for determination of Cd, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb, V and Zn in soil layers from pits excavated on a redundant industrial site. Samples were dried and sieved, and the < 2 mm fraction was ground in a ball mill prior to analysis. For ICP-AES and AAS, Ig sub-samples were digested with aqua regia in a microwave oven. The dry weight detection Limits of the analytes were in the range 2-25 mu g g(-1) for FAAS, 0.003-0.2 mu g g(-1) for ETAAS and 0.04-1.6 mu g g(-1) for ICP-AES. When digests of the industrial soils were analysed, calibration with acid-matched standards gave acceptable accuracy for all the analytes, except for Cd when determined by ETAAS (30-40 % suppression). Despite lack of reference materials of industrial origin, analysis of two soil reference materials by these techniques produced concentrations that were within +/- 10 % of the certified or recommended values for elements extractable with aqua regia. Direct standard-less analysis of a soil reference material with a portable x-ray fluorescence (P-XRF) analyser gave concentrations for a range of elements that were within a factor of 2 of the certified values. When the XRFS and ICP-AES methods were used to analyse the industrial soils, the concentrations obtained were similar (to within 30%) for Cu, Pb and Zn in most of the samples and for Cr, Mn and Ni in some of the samples. The concentrations of V estimated with the P-XRF analyser were 4 to 7-fold higher than those obtained by ICP-AES. The discrepancies were thought to be caused by spectral enhancement interferences in XRFS. Cadmium was not determined accurately by either ICP-AES or P-XRFS owing to spectral interferences. The work has highlighted the importance of analysing samples from across a site and at different depths, when assessing the extent of metal contamination on industrial land.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-40
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • contaminated land
  • microwave assisted digestion
  • atomic absorption spectrometry
  • inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry
  • portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry

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