ISO 13196:2013 specifies the procedure for screening soils and soil-like materials for selected elements when handheld or portable energy-dispersive XRF spectrometers are used. This quick method is assumed to be applied on-site to obtain qualitative or semiquantitative data that assists decisions on further sampling strategy for assessing soil quality. The higher the efforts for pretreatment used on soil samples, the better the analytical results can be expected.
ISO 13196:2013 does not explicitly specify elements for which it is applicable, since the applicability depends on the performance of the apparatus and the objective of the screening. The elements which can be determined are limited by the performance of the instruments used, the concentration of the element present in the soil, and the requirements of the investigation (e.g. guideline value).
For Hg, Cd, Co, Mo, V and Sb, a majority of instruments are not sensitive enough to reach sufficiently low limits of quantification (LOQ) to meet the requirements (limit or threshold values) set in the ordinances of different countries. In this case, other methods need to be employed to measure these low concentrations. Usually, wet chemical methods are used, based on aqua regia extracts, in combination with optical or mass spectrometric (MS) methods like atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS), inductively coupled plasma/optical emission spectrometry (ICP/OES) or ICP/MS.