Some answers to our most frequently asked questions
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney, the VegeSafe and DustSafe lab in Australia were closed from July to September 2021. The lab has recently reopened and staff are working to process the backlog of samples as quickly as possible.
If you sent in your samples during this time we thank you for your patience. Keep an eye on your email inbox for your results. Please do not hesitate to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
Max, Kara, Cynthia and Mark - The Australian team
Participating in VegeSafe (soil; Australia) or DustSafe (vacuum dust; global) is easy!
Please note that if you are sending soil and vacuum dust you will need to complete both registration surveys.
We strive to provide a fast turnaround time (3 - 5 weeks) for our participants. However, we can often be busy with other academic duties such as teaching, research, field visits and conferences. If you have previously submitted samples and are concerned that you have not yet received your results, please contact us.
The results of your soil or vacuum dust analysis will be emailed to you. Keep an eye on your junk inbox as sometimes the email can be found there. If it has been 3 - 5 weeks and you have not received an email, please contact us.
Check out our global map at Map My Environment. This mapping tool allows you to zoom to your area and compare soil and dust trace element concentrations. The data you see is from VegeSafe and DustSafe (with points double-jittered to protect participant privacy). If there isn't any data in your area, then be the first and send us a sample!
Your soil/vacuum dust report will also contain regionally relevant guidelines to assist with interpreting your results.
More information can be found on the Interpreting your results page.
We currently test for a suite of trace metals (heavy metals) in soil and vacuum dust. Your results will include data on concentrations of the following trace metals: arsenic (As); cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn).
There may be other contaminants in your home/garden environment that are not assessed by our program, such as asbestos and pesticides. Unfortunately, we do not have the facilities to offer this testing but a NATA accredited laboratory (Australia) or an environmental consultant will be able to assist you.
VegeSafe is a community science participation program run by Environmental Science staff at Macquarie University. We are the only service of this kind in Australia!
We seek to inform the community about metal and metalloid contaminants in their garden soil through our soil metal testing program. By participating, you will receive a formal report containing the results of your soil analysis, and advice about what to do next in the event of soils containing elevated concentrations of metals and metalloids (arsenic (As); cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn).
We accept soil samples from all Australian states and territories. Due to quarantine regulations we cannot accept soils from overseas.
The principal staff involved are Professor Mark P. Taylor and our lab technicians Ms Kara Fry and Mr Max Mclennan-Gillings.
For 6 years VegeSafe has been operating as a service to all Australians. In order to keep the program running and accessible to all, we ask for a small donation. This donation covers the time involved and the cost of soil analysis and laboratory consumables. We ask if you could please consider providing a donation to support the work of the program, starting from $20. Please note: your donation covers up to five samples submitted, it is not per sample.
A $20 donation to support our program can be made at the following link: Support VegeSafe.
Your donation to VegeSafe covers up to five samples, it is not per sample. You can make a donation to support our program.
Due to the current COVID-19 situation we ask that all participants mail their samples to us. We apologise for any inconvenience.
Once you complete your VegeSafe registration survey you will be emailed instructions on how to collect your samples. We provide 5 recommended sampling locations: front yard, back yard, veggie patch (x2) and dripline.
The dripline refers to a place that is immediately under the edge of your roof line, where you might expect runoff to drip or accumulate. The dripline is an important sample as it can capture common sources of contamination such as lead paint from exterior walls and dust that originated from your roof.
360 Dust Analysis, or DustSafe is a global citizen science initiative that offers testing of household vacuum dust samples for trace metals and metalloids.
After sending your vacuum dust to DustSafe you will receive a formal report explaining the concentrations of eight trace metals in your dust: arsenic (As); cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn) along with information on regionally relevant comparative guidelines and advice on how to reduce your exposure risk.
Our primary testing facilities are in Australia (Macquarie University), England (Northumbria University) and America (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis). Participants from these locations can get involved by completing the registration survey here.
We have also collaborated with researchers from China, Greece, Ghana, Mexico, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Nigeria. You can view the results from these collaborative efforts on our MapMyEnvironment global map. If you would like to start a collection in your country, or reside outside of our primary testing areas but would like to send us your dust please contact us.
We aim to be operated “by the people – for the people”. We ask that you consider making a donation to assist with the cost of staff time and laboratory consumables required to analyse your vacuum dust sample. If you would like to support DustSafe you can do so here: Support DustSafe.
Your donation to DustSafe covers the sample preparation and analysis of one vacuum dust sample. You can support DustSafe by making a donation here.
Once you complete the DustSafe registration survey you will be emailed instructions on how to collect your sample and where to post it.
We ask that you fill a plastic resealable bag (sandwich bag or similar) with dust directly from your vacuum cleaner. Please include everything that is in your vacuum cleaner - hair and all!
Once we receive your sample it is sieved to remove large items (hair, bits of Lego, crumbs, glitter) and analyse only the fine fraction (less than 250 microns). We need a full bag of dust to be able to extract enough fine fraction dust for analysis. The more dust, the better!
If you have a question that we have not addressed above please contact us.
The 360 Dust Analysis program is a global research initiative to collect and analyse data on contaminants of concern that may be harmful to human health in homes and gardens.
Macquarie University, NSW, Australia.
Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom.
IUPUI, Indianapolis, United States.