A field screening test for the assessment of concentrations and mobility of potentially toxic elements in soils: a case study on urban soils from Rome and Novi Sad

Environ Monit Assess. 2017 Aug 23;189(9):466. doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-6164-3.


The increasing demand for environmental pollution control results in the development and use of new procedures for the determination of dangerous chemicals. Simple screening methods, which can be used directly in the field for a preliminary assessment of soil contamination, seem to be extremely advantageous. In our laboratory, we developed and optimized a rapid test for a preliminary evaluation of both the concentration and the mobility of some potentially toxic metals in soils. This screening test consists of a single extraction of the soil sample with a buffer solution, followed by the titration of the extracted solution with dithizone to determine the contents of bi-valent heavy metals (such as Pb, Cu, Zn, and Cd). This screening method was then directly applied in the field during the sampling campaign in the framework of an Italian-Serbian collaborative project, finalized in the study of metal availability in soils. The results obtained in the field with the rapid test were compared with those obtained in the laboratory following the conventional procedure commonly used to evaluate metal bioavailability (diethylenetriaminepentaacetic extraction). Moreover, selected samples were analyzed sequentially in the laboratory using the standardized BCR three-step sequential extraction procedure. The screening test gave results conceptually in good agreement with those obtained via the BCR procedure. These preliminary data show that the proposed screening test is a reliable method for the preliminary rapid evaluation of metal total concentrations and of potential metal mobility in soils, supporting sampling activities directly in the field.

Keywords: Dithizone; Extraction procedures; In-field screening test; Metal availability in urban soils; Total metal contents.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Mining*
  • Rome
  • Serbia
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants