Frequently Asked Questions


Can MSCL test my pond/lake/well water and tell me if it is safe to drink/swim/etc.?

We can test your water for specific analytes, but we are not able to tell you if your water is safe. We can only report levels of analytes found.

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Do the results of my lead-in-soil test show that my playground passes and is safe to open a daycare?

Contact the Child Care Licensure Division: (601) 364-2827,0,183,61.html

How do I Report a Problem with Food?

1. For help with Meat, Poultry and Processed Egg Products call USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1888-674-6854.

2. For Help with Restaurant Food Problems call the Health Department in your city, county or state. View a complete listing of State Departments of Public Health.

3. For Help with Non-Meat Food Products (Cereals, Fish, Produce, Fruit Juice, Pastas, Cheeses, etc):
Call the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Check your local phone book under U.S. Government, Health and Human Services, to find an FDA office in your area. The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition can be reached at 1-888-723-3366 or online at

In order for the USDA to investigate a problem with meat, poultry or egg products, you must have:
1.) The original container or packaging
2.) Any foreign object that you might have discovered in the product
3.) Any uneaten portion of the food (refrigerate or freeze it)

Information you should be ready to tell the Hotline on the phone includes:
1.) Name, address and phone number;
2.) Brand name, product name and manufacturer of the product
3.) The size and package type
4.) Can or package codes (not UPC bar codes) and dates
5.) Establishment number (EST) usually found in the circle or shield near the "USDA passed and inspected" phrase;
6.) Name and location of the store, as well as the date that you purchased the product.
7.) You can complain to the store or the product's manufacturer if you don't choose to make a formal complaint to the USDA.

If you think you are ill, see a physician.

If an injury or illness allegedly resulted from use of a meat or poultry product, you will also need to tell the Hotline staff about the type, symptoms, time of occurrence and name of attending health professional (if applicable).

The Bottom Line:
If you sense there's a problem with any food product, don't consume it. "When in doubt, throw it out."

How do I submit a sample?

Visit Information for MSCL Customers for directions and forms to submit your sample.

How is pesticide use controlled in the United States?

All pesticide use in the US is regulated via a complex system of registration and review under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The governing legal act for product registration and use is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rotenticide Act (FIFRA). The initial version of this act was passed in 1947, for implementation by the USDA. It required chemicals to be registered but provided no means of controlling use. It was not until 1972 that amendments were made to FIFRA to provide mechanisms for risk-benefit analysis and use restrictions, with control handed over to the newly formed EPA. Today, chemical manufacturers bear the burden of proposing new chemicals, testing their toxicity and presenting the case for their use. EPA scientists and other staff are responsible for evaluating the manufacturer’s case and making decisions on where and when a chemical may be used and how it should be applied.

I suspect my animal (dog, cat, horse, etc...) has been poisoned, can MSCL test a sample?

In cases of suspected pesticide misuse for poisoning of animals, Contact Bureau of Plant Industry at 662-325-3390

I suspect that my lawn/plants have been sprayed by a neighboring farmer, can MSCL test my sample?

In cases of suspected drift spray please contact the Bureau of Plant Industry at 662-325-3390 or visit

What are acceptable levels of lead in paint?

Please refer to for current data.

What are acceptable levels of lead in playground soil?

Please refer to for current data.

What are herbicides?

Herbicides act on biochemical pathways specific to plants, for example photosynthesis. They can act on contact or by root absorption and their effect can be non-systemic (e.g., diquat) or systemic (e.g., glyphosate).

What are rodenticides?

Most rodenticides are often anti-coagulants. First generation anti-coagulants such as Warfarin cause hemorrhage. Second generation types bring about neurological and cardio-pulmonary injury in the target organism before the onset of hemorrhage.

What are the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations?

Please refer to to for current data.

What do the units on my results mean?

ppb - parts-per-billion. Refer to ug/L or ug/Kg or ng/g or ng/mL or pg/uL.

ppm - parts-per-million. Refer to mg/L or mg/Kg or mg/mL or ng/uL.

µg/L - micrograms-per-liter A unit of measure equivalent to ppb.

mg/kg - milligrams-per-kilogram A unit of measure equivalent to ppm.

mg/L - milligrams-per-liter A unit of measure used with liquid samples. 1 mg/L is equivalent to 1 ppm.

What if I need more information about my soil analyses?

Additional nutrient analyses for soil and plant samples for fertility recommendations and problem solving are available through The Soil Testing Lab (662-325-3313). Soil tests measure available nutrients in the soil and serve as the best guide to profitable use of commercial liming and fertilizing materials. Without a sound soil testing program, crop yield potential can be reduced and low crop productivity can occur through lack of liming and over fertilization.

What is a Pesticide?

The term pesticide means 'pest killer'. Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill target organisms deemed to be pests because they can contribute to human diseases, destruction of crops, or are household pests like ants and roaches.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (known as FIFRA) defines pesticides as ". . . any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, desiccant."

Pesticides can take a variety of forms: liquid, powder, gel bait granular etc. Pesticides manufactured in granular form may be subsequently dissolved in spray tanks and applied as liquid. Others are applied in particle form.

What is a preservative and should I add it to my samples?

Chemical preservatives are added to samples to either prevent or slow the degradation of the target analyte. If you are unsure as to whether your samples need preservative or not, please contact our office at 662-325-3324 for guidance and instructions on what preservative to add.

What is an insecticide?

An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, industry, medicine, and the household.

What is the proper way to submit my samples (i.e. packaging, dry ice vs. wet ice, what to include in cooler)?

Visit Information for MSCL Customers for packaging instructions for submitting your sample.

What kinds of Pesticides are there?

Pesticides can be divided into groups based on the organisms they target. Among the most common pesticides are insecticides, rodenticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These kill insects, rodents, plants, and fungi, respectively.

When is payment required?

All services must be prepaid at the time of sample submission unless other arrangements have been made with the Business Office (i.e. purchase order, credit card). No results will be released until payment has been received or secured.

Where is MSCL located? (Driving directions)

Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory
1145 Hand Lab
310 President's Cr
Mississippi State, MS 39762-5622

Driving Directions to Hand Laboratory on the MSU Campus, Starkville MS

From Hwy 45, take the Starkville Exit. Follow Hwy 82 to the Clayton Village exit. After exiting, take a right onto Hwy 182 West. Go to Troup G Highway Patrol Station and turn left. This will bring you onto campus.

From Hwy 25, take the Hwy 82 Exit. Follow Hwy 82 to the Clayton Village exit. After exiting, take a right onto Hwy 182 West. Go to Troup G Highway Patrol Station and turn left. This will bring you onto campus.

From Hwy 82, take the Clayton Village exit. After exiting, take a right onto Hwy 182 West. Go to Troup G Highway Patrol Station and turn left. This will bring you onto campus.

From Hwy 12, take the Hwy 82 Exit. Follow Hwy 82 to the Clayton Village exit. After exiting, take a right onto Hwy 182 West. Go to Troup G Highway Patrol Station and turn left. This will bring you onto campus.

Once on campus, go through one traffic light and bear left onto Hardy Blvd. Follow Hardy to the 4 way stop (Hand Lab will be on the right at this intersection.) Turn right and then turn right into the parking lot at the South Entrance of Hand Lab.

Google Maps Address

Come through two sets of double doors and the elevator is on the right. Come to 1st floor and turn right out of the elevator.

The main office is 1145 (last door on the left). Office hours are M-F, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., except during Mississippi State University Holidays.