Environmental Contaminants

Contaminants are common in many environments, even in soils and dusts, and are generally safe. However, certain metals and other elements are dangerous when they accumulate, especially where we live, eat, or play.

The table below indicates the accepted levels of soil contamination from several authoritative bodies. Click on the column headers for each published source. Look below the table for descriptions of the sources and effects of each metal and metalloid in the table.

Element (mg/kg) Australia NEPC (2013) Residential A Australia NEPC (2013) Residential B Australia NEPC (2013) Recreational C California CEPA (2005) Canada CCME (2013) Norway NPCA (2009) United States EPA (2019)
Lead 300 1200 600 80 140 90 400
Barium - - - 5200 500 - -
Copper 6000 30000 17000 3000 63 150 310
Manganese 3800 14000 19000 - - - 180
Chromium VI 100 500 300 17 0,4 75 0,3
Cadmium 20 150 90 1,7 10 12,2 7,1
Nickel 400 1200 1200 1600 50 90 150
Zinc 7400 60000 30000 23000 200 300 2300
Arsenic 100 500 300 0,07 12 12 0,68

Except for barium, this table was compiled by Professor Mark Taylor and Marek Rouillon at Maquarie University. Click here for the original table.

  • Residential A- with garden/accessible soil (home-grown produce <10% fruit and vegetable intake (no poultry), also includes childcare centers, preschools, and primary schools.
  • Residential B - with minimal opportunities for soil access; includes dwellings with fully and permanently paved yard space such as high-rise buildings and apartments.
  • Residential C - Public open space such as parks, playgrounds, playing fields (e.g. ovals), secondary schools and footpaths

Metals

Metalloids