Saint Mary's College purchased a Niton 796 XLt instrument through a grant from the Dreyfus Foundation in 2004.  This field portable XRF instrument has been integrated into the curriculum and is utilized in faculty and student research projects.

XRF instrument


Environmental Chemistry students have sampled soils near an urban highway and quantifed lead content in soil as a training lab. After the training lab, some classes have performed screening studies at other sites to benefit various community organizations.


Quantifying Lead

Student records background measurements at field site adjacent to Highway 24 (Fall 2004).

Lead content in soil samples is under investigation.  The soil samples are collected in residential area where the age of the housing stock is likely to have lead based paint.  These studies are done as in class labs. 

A residential site screening experiment was written up as a formal lab experiment and published by the Journal of Chemical Education 2008, 85(7), 980-982.

One chemistry major has performed an independent research project on soil samples provided from Alameda County  validating the student's ablitiy following EPA Method 6200.

Highway Site Soil study

Students in the Environmental Chemistry lab gain skill with the instrument and general aspects of field sampling.  The Gateway Highway 24 Interchange site has been sampled in Spring 2003, Fall 2004, Fall 2006, Fall 2008, and Fall 2012. 

This field site is changing as Cal-Trans upgrades Highway 24.  The dynamic changes are investigated in the lab.

The collection of soil core is underway at the present time and the experimental results will hopefully yield some useful trends.

Quantifying Arsenic

An opportunity to study arsenic in soils is being developed.  If samples don't contain lead as an analyte, then the quantification of arsenic should be straightforward.  A few field investigations are being planned.

Other Mediums

Dust Wipe analysis

Some preliminary samples were collected in a residence and supported the soil study where lead from old paint was identified.  The dust wipe samples may be sent to colleagues as a sample to further validate our use of dust wipes in the curriculum.  To use dust wipes, a confirmatory method of analysis is critical and a  partnering institution will be necessary.

Maps & Directories

Mailing Address

Saint Mary's College of California
1928 Saint Mary's Road
Moraga, CA 94575
(925) 631-4000
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