State University Extension
Home Maintenance And Repair - 01500588
Testing for Contaminants
Types of Tests
Water include items of natural origin and those resulting from human
activities. Common reasons for testing water may be the presence of
unusual taste, appearance or odor, or the need to check the suitability
of a new water supply for drinking, irrigation or other uses. Most
routine water tests can detect common contaminants -- e.g., iron,
nitrates or bacteria -- that are either esthetics or health concerns.
Specialized tests are required to detect more unusual pollutants, such
as pesticides or gasoline. Your local health department should be your
first contact agency for water issues. (For more details on water
testing, see Extension bulletin WQO2, Testing of Private Wells.) Soil
For home gardeners, soil analysis provides guidelines on meeting the
nutrient needs of lawns, fruits and vegetables. Analysis of your soil
can also help you select the most effective and environmentally sound
pesticide application rates for your conditions. Concerns about the
physical and chemical properties of your soil, as well as possible
contaminants, should be directed to your county Extension office.
Questions about soil testing needed for the proper installation of
septic or water systems should be directed to your local health
Most air testing is performed to detect particulates and volatile
(easily vaporized) compounds that may pose an environmental and/or
health threat. If you suspect that the air in your home is contaminate
by air particulates, such as asbestos fibers, or by volatile compounds,
such as formaldehyde, you should contact your local health department.
If it cannot provide test services, it can make referrals and may give
you advice on what steps you can take to alleviate your concern. When
you are concerned about exposure to particulates or volatiles in the
workplace air, you should contact the Michigan Department of Public
Health. If you have any questions about outdoor air quality, such as
nearby emissions or peculiar odors, the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources is the first agency to contact.
Feed and food testing
Foods and feeds are usually tested to determine nutritional content and
value or to detect contaminants, such as mold toxins or pesticides.
Routine testing of commercially available foods and fee is the
responsibility of the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) and is
done to enforce regulations on nutritional content labeling and to
determine if contaminants in foods and feeds exceed federal tolerance
levels. Foods grown privately by farmers or gardeners for human or
animal consumption are not routinely tested by regulatory agencies. In
some instances, you may want to have food tested because of concern
about contaminants that may cause some adverse health effect -- e.g.,
pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables or bacterial contamination
of dairy products. If you suspect contamination of commercial or
privately grown food, contact the food Division of the Michigan
Department of Agriculture or your local health department. Contact your
county Cooperative Extension Service office, the Michigan Department of
Agriculture (Food Division) or local veterinarian if you need
information about nutritional or contaminant testing of feeds.
Plant testing services include identification, disease diagnosis,
nutrient composition determination and some contaminant analysis.
Analysis of insects and nematodes is generally limited to
identification of crop pests. Some inorganic and contaminant analysis
of plants is done by private laboratories, while plant disease
diagnosis and identification of plants, insects and nematodes is done
at MSU. Before requesting this testing, consult your county Extension
office for advice.
Biological specimen testing
Testing of biological specimens (blood, urine, tissue) is usually done
only at the request of professionals such as physicians and
veterinarian. They may use the services of private, MDPH or MDA
laboratories, depending on the tests required and the circumstances of
the situation, or they may perform the tests themselves. To reiterate,
the majority of this biological specimen testing is performed under
recommendations of a veterinarian or physician and is not directly
available. At MSU, however, the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory
does offer, to the public, consultation and testing services involving
animal problems. Questions about biological testing should be directed
to the appropriate professional -- e.g., physician or veterinarian.
to be Tested
(suitability for septic system)
(composition or contaminants)
Cooperative Extension Service office
| Air (home)
Department of Public Health (Division of Occupational Health)
Department of Natural Resources (Air Quality Division) (517)373-7023
Department of Agriculture (Food Division) (517) 373-1060 or local
Cooperative Extension Service office or Michigan Department of
Agriculture (Food Division) (517)373-1060 or veterinarian
Cooperative Extension Service office
veterinarian or MSU Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory (517)353-1683
information call the MSU Center for Environmental Toxicology at (517)
This information comes from Michigan State University Extension
bulletin E-2016, Testing for Contaminants.
to main page
This information is for
educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade
names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those
not mentioned. This information becomes public property upon
publication and may be printed verbatim with credit to MSU Extension.
Reprinting cannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product
MSU is an
employer. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials
are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender,
gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political
beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran
status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and
June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Thomas G. Coon, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing,MI 48824. This
information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial
products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or
bias against those not mentioned.
information.was reviewed as
of June 2008. For more information about the contents please
for webpage problems