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  QUESTION: What is the lead risk of eating avocados growing under lead paint rubble? 12 Jan 2006, New South Wales Australia

Hello and thankyou for your very impressive site.
I have had some old lead paint from a wall (scraping and chips mixed with plaster and rubble) dumped by an avocado tree -(for about 2 years I think it would have been there) and while the fruit is good and tasty I was concerned about its potential lead content?

I used a little swab device to check the lead content of the paint and it came up strongly very quickly. I am in the process of wanting to remove the rubble and would be interested in how I might find out if the avocados would be safe. The trees fine roots are growing through the dust and rubble?
Many thanks

ANSWER: 12 Jan 2006

Dear Julian,

thanks for your compliments re: our website and for your interesting and unusual question. It is possible to send an avocado to a lab to have the lead analysed but it's also expensive ($40 to $120) so a cheaper alternative would be to have your blood tested for lead (or the blood of the person who has eaten the most avocados from this tree!). You can ask the doctor to mark the pathology request as Bulk Bill which will mean it will be free (otherwise it costs around $30 to $40).

You are permitted to dump the lead paint waste in your municipal garbage collection bin as long as it is double wrapped in plastic. Wear a mask and use water-spray from a plastic spray bottle to wet it down so you don't end up breathing any lead dust during the removal.

It seems that, as a general guide lead is more likely to be found on the leaves of fruits like strawberries when there is soil lead contamination & the soil has to have a pH markedly different from neutral for the lead to actually be absorbed into the plant.

If you do want to test an avocado, the best lab to do it would be the NSW Health Dept Lab at Lidcombe on 02 9646 0424.

Kind regards
Yours Sincerely
Elizabeth O'Brien

See: Is your yard lead safe?
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