August 31, 2009

NIST certifies three new soil materials

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology has certified three new reference materials for soil testing by laboratories.

Officials said the new standard reference materials -- gathered from the San Joaquin Valley in California and from sites near Butte and Helena in Montana -- are designed to aid in determining soil quality, detecting soil contamination and monitoring cleanup efforts from accidental spills or atmospheric deposition.

The NIST created its first batch of sample soils, which the new materials replace, about 20 years ago. Efforts to restock the supply with updated standard reference materials began in 2006.

Scientists at the United States Geological Survey's Denver, Colo., laboratory collected the soil for the new (reference materials) from either the same or near the same locations as they had collected the original soils, the NIST said in a statement. The USGS team then prepared the soil samples by individually drying them, sifting them and blending them before they were packaged and sent to NIST for further processing.

The federal institute said standard reference materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes more than a thousand materials used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments and test procedures used in manufacturing, clinical chemistry, environmental monitoring, electronics, criminal forensics and dozens of other fields.