Does the USGS have reports on the background levels of elements in soils and other surficial materials?

The following USGS products will be helpful in determining the background levels of various elements in soils and other surficial materials:

For more information, see our Science Feature, Getting the Dirt on Soil.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 12

Where can I obtain soil surveys?

A soil survey is the systematic description, classification, and mapping of soils in an area. They are published by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) , formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service. NRCS soil surveys are available from several sources: Some are on the NRCS website . Published soil surveys can be found at...

How are harmful elements and compounds in plants, soils, rocks, and sediments regulated?

Regulatory limits for safe levels of elements in water and foodstuffs are established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. However, there are generally no regulatory limits that scientists can refer to when dealing with plants, soils, rocks, and sediments. Therefore, to determine whether a plant,...

Where can I find information about mineral commodities?

For statistical information about mineral commodities, visit the USGS Commodity Statistics and Information website. For locations outside the United States, the USGS International Minerals Statistics and Information website is the best starting point.

What is the meaning of the karat mark on gold jewelry?

The fineness of jewelry gold is stated as the number of parts in twenty-four that are gold. Thus, 24 karat gold is pure gold; 12 K would be an alloy that is half gold and half copper or other metals.

What is the difference between a rock and a mineral?

A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic element or compound having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties. Common minerals include quartz, feldspar, mica, amphibole, olivine, and calcite. A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals, or a body of undifferentiated mineral...

What is "Fool's Gold?"

Fool's Gold can be one of three minerals. The most common mineral mistaken for gold is pyrite. Chalcopyrite may also appear gold-like, and weathered mica can mimic gold as well. Compared to actual gold, these minerals will flake, powder or crumble when poked with a metal point, whereas gold will gouge or indent like soft lead. In addition, actual...

How much silver has been found in the world?

Of the 1,740,000 metric tons of silver discovered to date, 55% is found in just four countries on earth. All the silver discovered thus far would fit in a cube 55 meters on a side. Learn more at the USGS commodity website for silver .

How much gold has been found in the world?

About 244,000 metric tons of gold has been discovered to date (187,000 metric tons historically produced plus current underground reserves of 57,000 metric tons). Most of that gold has come from just three countries: China, Australia, and South Africa. The United States ranked fourth in gold production in 2016. All of the gold discovered thus far...

How much copper has been found in the world?

To date, roughly 700 million metric tons of copper have been produced around the world. This would fit into a cube measuring about 430 meters on a side. Identified deposits contain an estimated 2.1 billion metric tons of additional copper, which brings the total amount of discovered copper to 2.8 billion metric tons. This would fit into a cube...

How large is a lifetime supply of minerals for the average person?

At today's level of consumption, the average newborn infant will need a lifetime supply of 800 pounds of lead, 750 pounds of zinc, 1,500 pounds of copper, 3,593 pounds of aluminum, 32,700 pounds of iron, 26,550 pounds of clays, 28,213 pounds of salt, and 1,238,101 pounds of stone, sand, gravel, and cement.

How do we extract minerals?

The primary methods used to extract minerals from the ground are: Underground mining Surface (open pit) mining Placer mining The location and shape of the deposit, strength of the rock, ore grade, mining costs, and current market price of the commodity are some of the determining factors for selecting which mining method to use. Higher-grade...

What minerals produce the colors in fireworks?

Mineral elements provide the color in fireworks. Barium produces bright greens; strontium yields deep reds; copper produces blues; and sodium yields yellow. Other colors can be made by mixing elements: strontium and sodium produce brilliant orange; titanium, zirconium, and magnesium alloys make silvery white; copper and strontium make lavender...
Filter Total Items: 3
Date published: May 2, 2016

Fireworks Likely Caused Water Contamination at Mount Rushmore

Past fireworks displays are the probable cause of elevated concentrations of a contaminant called perchlorate in groundwater and surface water within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey report.

Date published: March 17, 2016

History of Metal Contamination Recorded in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Soil

Scientists have traced the history of lead and mercury contamination in tidal wetlands of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey article published in Science of the Total Environment.

Date published: December 1, 2009

Contaminated Soil is Source of Mercury in Fish in Shenandoah Valley Rivers

Riverbank and floodplain soils are the major source of mercury in fish from several Shenandoah Valley rivers. A new federal study shows that 96 percent of the mercury loads to the South River come from soil that was contaminated more than 50 years ago by a textile manufacturing plant in Waynesboro, Va.

Filter Total Items: 9
Close-up of disturbed soil containing few plants with recently spread native plant seeds at soil surface.
July 31, 2017

Close-up of native seeds on soil surface

Close-up of seed treatment plot showing native grass and forb seeds after application.  Seeds were added right before monsoon season in hopes that the rains would allow the seeds to germinate and the native plants to get established.

Samples to OGRL thumbnail
December 29, 2016

OGRL soil samples

A pair of hands holding a soil sample above the ground that is covered in clovers.

A hole in the ground with layers
July 31, 2015

Soil pit on Sitkalidak Island, Alaska

Soil pit exposing tsunami deposits on Sitkalidak Island, Alaska.

Scientists taking soil samples
September 4, 2014

Taking soil samples

USGS researchers collecting a soil sample for rare earth elements at the Roy Creek prospect, Alaska. Jamey Jones is holding the bag while Erin Todd shovels soil into the bag.

Image: Soil in Test Tube
March 1, 2012

Soil in Test Tube

Amount of soil (about 200 mg) from which Geomyces destructans was cultured. This shows the small amount of soil needed to harbor live fungus and the threat that humans might pose in moving it around from cave to cave on their gear, boots, and clothing.

Image: Soil Sampling
June 1, 2009

Soil Sampling

JoAnn Holloway(USGS) and Ron Wiederholt(NDSU) collecting soil samples.

Soil profile in dryland region. The top of the horizon is a light brown and the bottom half of the horizon is darker in color.
November 30, 2000

Soil profile in dryland region

Soil profile in the Mancos shale near Moab, UT.

Sampling soil for a study of the migration of palliative chemicals used for dust abatement, Nevada

Sampling soil for a study of the migration of palliative chemicals

Sampling soil for a study of the migration of palliative chemicals used for dust abatement, Nevada.