LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News Volume 15 Number 2, February 2015, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor-in-Chief: Elizabeth O’Brien, Editorial Team: Yiru Rocky Huang, Michelle Calvert and David Ratcliffe

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Lead Safe Community Gardening

Research by Sumegha Agarwal, Article by Yiru Rocky Huang

To those of you who grow vegetables and other goodies in community gardens, please be aware that in many gardens, such as the Hart to Hart Community Garden in Brooklyn, New York, unsafe levels of lead have been found in vegetable samples. In the case of Hart to Hart, it was 1.95 parts per million (please see the news article in Lead Safe World’s Blog Update on the 19th of November, 2014: http://www.leadsafeworld.com/news/lead-safe-community-gardening/), which is nearly 20 times the level considered safe by the state’s Health Department.

An article at Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) (http://www.sgaonline.org.au/lead-contamination/) suggests that “planting a vegetable garden where rubbish was once dumped; on previous agricultural land where there are nearby mines or smelters; or where a house once stood, could pose a hazard”. It’s important to check your soil for lead contamination and a good way to do so would be to purchase a lead testing kit from The LEAD Group Inc. Do It Yourself Lead Safe Test Kits (http://www.leadsafeworld.com) as it includes professional lab testing, analysis and a report of your samples. The SGA article also suggests “washing your vegetables thoroughly and discarding the older leaves which absorb more lead, maintaining a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0 to reduce lead uptake from the soil and mulching the soil to reduce blowing dust and increase water retention.”

It is especially important to test community vegetable gardens near main roads and older houses where lead in the environment may contaminate the soil from leaded paint, traffic fumes and other sources such as dust and soil.

In the past, Professor Mark Taylor from Macquarie University launched a trial program called Veggie Safe on the University’s Open Day in 2013 which allowed people to bring in soil from their backyard to be tested. He said that the “public should be aware but not alarmed” as this is about “informing people of the potential risks and educating them on how to act” (http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/lead-threat-to-children-from-home-veggie-patches-20130906-2tan9.html). Elizabeth O’Brien, horrified by the trend in inner city areas of Sydney of using verge soil said: “The lead is already in verge soil in particular and people could be eating it unaware…” Hence I would like to stress the importance of getting your soil from a reputable source and get a sample of it tested to ensure that you will be growing vegetables in a worry-free manner. For reference, the Australian standard indicates soil should contain no more than 300 parts per million of Lead.

Growing your vegetables and other edibles in containers when you know the exact content of the soil minimises the risk of lead contamination and keeps everything isolated, there are many container gardens ideas available on the Internet, some of the best ones can be found at http://www.gardenista.com/ and http://www.gardendesign.com so get active, do your research and be empowered!

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Last Updated 08 March 2015
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