|Wednesday What's New: Is There Lead in My Garden?|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 27 July 2011|
A while ago a reader wrote in and asked, “How do I know the site I have chosen for my garden is 'safe'? I have no idea what the previous owner had there (new construction on an old lot) and am concerned that the soil may contain contaminants that I wouldn't want in my food.” It was a very good question, which is why when I came across this article on potential lead contamination in backyards I thought it would be good to spread the word, especially since lead can remain in soils for hundreds of years.
Before you panic and rush out to test your soil, keep in mind that the potential for soil contamination from heavy metals and oil is higher in urban areas, older homes where lead paint was used and may have flaked off or leached into the soil, and near highways left over from the days when leaded gasoline was the norm. According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, there’s also potential for contamination is suburban developments built on the site of former orchards. This is because lead arsenate was once a commonly applied pesticide.
The US Environmental Protection Agency considers garden soil contaminated if it has 400 parts lead per million parts of soil. If you find that your soil is contaminated, there is a solution: Raised beds filled with clean soil like the ones pictured above in this garden in the Powelton Village neighborhood in Philadelphia. The area within 6 feet of the house is often the most contaminated if the source of the lead is paint. Choose an area well way from the house and the likelihood of contamination is less, but still possible. If you have any doubts, have your soil tested at a professional lab or at your local cooperative extension office.
Photo source: www.ucgreen.org