The administration of REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), the new European Chemicals Regulation adopted in December 2006, and the pending EU Soil Protection Directive, require additional knowledge about "soil quality" at the European scale. REACH specifies that industry must prove that it can produce and use its substances safely. Risks, due to the exposure to a substance during production and use at the local, regional and European scale, all need to be reliably assessed. In contrast to human-made organic substances that do not occur naturally in the environment, all industries dealing with natural resources will face in the near future a number of specific questions: (1) Most of their "products" occur also naturally – the natural background variation needs to be established, in addition to a methodology to differentiate the industrial impact from the natural geogenic background; (2) What is the "bioavailability" of metals and other chemical elements in soil? and (3) What is the long-term fate of metals and other chemical elements added to soil?
The GEMAS (geochemical mapping of agricultural and grazing land soil) project will deliver good quality and comparable exposure data of metals in agricultural and grazing land soil; in addition soil properties known to influence the bioavailability and toxicity of metals (and other elements) will be determined in soil at the European scale. Here results from aqua regia extraction and analysis of 53 chemical elements will be presented and discussed.