Evidence for long-term changes in the soil composition of selected organic compounds, brought about by exchanges with the atmosphere, is briefly reviewed. In the case of some compounds — such as benzo(a)pyrene and octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, soils may be significant long-term environmental sinks for atmospherically-derived material. In other cases — such as phenanthrene and some of the lighter PCBs, de-gassing or volatilisation from soil back to the air can occur under certain conditions. Hence the soil may act as a “short-term” sink, and a potential source to atmosphere. Indeed, for some ‘semi-volatile’ compounds used in large quantities in the past — such as PCBs, soil outgassing may actually be an extremely important source to contemporary air. Furthermore, soil outgassing from areas of former high use may provide an important driving mechanism for continued “global cycling” of a range of semi-volatile organochlorine compounds.