Samples of ambient surface soils were collected from 56 locations in Chicago, Illinois, using stratified random sampling techniques and analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds and inorganic constituents. PAHs appear to be derived primarily from combustion of fossil fuels and may be affected by proximity to industrial operations, but do not appear to be substantially affected by the organic carbon content of the soil, proximity to nonindustrial land uses, or proximity to a roadway. Atmospheric settling of particulate matter appears to be an important mechanism for the placement of PAH compounds into soils. Concentrations of most inorganic constituents are affected primarily by soil-forming processes. Concentrations of lead, arsenic, mercury, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, molybdenum, zinc, and selenium are elevated in ambient surface soils in Chicago in comparison to the surrounding area, indicating anthropogenic sources for these elements in Chicago soils. Concentrations of calcium and magnesium in Chicago soils appear to reflect the influence of the carbonate bedrock parent material on the chemical composition of the soil, although the effects of concrete and road fill cannot be discounted. Concentrations of inorganic constituents appear to be largely unaffected by the type of nearby land use. Copyright ?? Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.