Laboratories and research support: soil toxicology laboratory

Article Title

Soil Toxicology Laboratory

Scientist collecting soil samples for study
The Soil Toxicology Laboratory within the Biological Assessment and Standardization Section is responsible for the research, development and standardization of biological test methods used to assess the toxicity of substances to terrestrial plants and soil organisms.

Laboratory activities and soil toxicology research support Environment Canada’s commitment to the risk assessment and management of potentially harmful substances to protect Canadians and their environment.

The laboratory, located in the S&T Laboratories in Ottawa, Ontario, provides up-to-date and relevant toxicity and bioaccumulation test methods. Methodology is applied to assess the risk posed by pollutants in soil, and to manage contaminated sites by assessing remedial efforts.

Current research and methodology

The development of standardized soil test methods
  • Developing a suite of new standard test methods for Canada’s boreal forest and taiga ecozones. Tests use ecologically-relevant herbaceous and woody upland and wetland plant species, soil organisms like earthworms, collembolan, and mites, and pollutant assessments
  • Soil sampling initiatives from across Canada collect and test representative reference soils to understand species distribution and diversity across a variety of soil types present in boreal and taiga ecozones
  • Prepare and supply data on the toxicity and bioaccumulation potential of medium priority substances under the Chemicals Management Plan. Data informs bioaccumulation model estimates, supports a more comprehensive assessment of selected priority substances, and improves the tools used for the assessment and management of other suspected persistent, bioaccumulative, and inherently toxic (PBiT) chemicals.
  • Studying the potential effects of nanotechnology including evaluating nanomaterials and their impact on terrestrial plants and soil invertebrates, in partnership with the Nanomaterials Research Laboratory

The laboratory supports various Environment Canada programs and regulatory processes and is accredited by the Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA) to ISO/IEC 17025 for the application of standard soil test methods.


Some soil toxicology research is conducted in partnership with the Soil Biotechnology Laboratory. Recent collaborations have included investigating the pathogenic and toxic potential of new substances on Canada’s Domestic Substance List, including microbial products of biotechnology. Evaluating the fate of these substances in soil throughout toxicity and pathogenicity tests will contribute to the risk assessment of high priority microbial strains.

Current laboratory research funding comes from government programs including the Program for Energy Research and Development (PERD).

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