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QUESTION: Would your kits be suitable for testing lead in soil for veggie garden & soil which needs to be removed? 15/07/10 Victoria, Australia

I am a keen food gardener in an urban area. I have a section I need to pave adjacent to an 120 year old house, so presumably lead paint has been used.

For this paving I need to excavate, and I am pondering whether to dump the soil from excavation, or to spread this soil over the rest of the garden - my decision will depend on the likelihood of increasing the lead level in my veggie patch, although I am also concerned at the environmental impacts of dumping.

The area concerned is 2 metres wide and 15 metres long, adjacent to a 2 story wall. It has been under grass for some time. My question is whether it would be worth testing in the 1st metre out from the wall, and in the middle of the veggie garden, only about 4 metres further out.

I am presuming that I would have some level of background contamination in the veggie garden, and I keep the soil biologically active and am conscious that some plants take up less heavy metals than others. But is it really the comparison of the 2 areas that would be helpful to me. Would your kits be suitable for this testing.


ANSWER: Jul 15 2010

Dear Madam,

what an interesting and thoughtful process you are going through to make your veggies lead-safe while still looking after the environment. Very laudable.

Yes, all the pointers that lead people to start growing vegetables in urban areas are concerning from a lead safety point of view, and your email and recent phone queries make me realize that we're really going to have to write a factsheet purely on this topic!

Our kits are absolutely perfect for your proposed use - they are the only kits that are.

It is definitely worth knowing the veggie patch soil lead level before you do all the work that making a veggie garden entails, and yes, the sample close to the foundations of your house is very likely to return a higher lead result than the further away soil (usually a lot higher). However, the garden patch soil lead result could conceivably be high enough that we would recommend raised garden beds OR replacement with clean soil.

Before you can make a decision about where to put the soil that has lain (is that a word?) alongside the house for 120 years, it would be good to know its lead content. You could buy a Basic (2-sample) kit by filling in the online order form or by phoning through all your details.

I should mention that if you bought the Comprehensive (8-sample) kit, you could just send the first two soil samples you propose, to the lab, wait for the results and interpretation advice, and then decide if you want to test other soil samples or dust wipe samples for lead - these latter are more relevant in protecting children or indoor pets from lead exposure. You may also end up testing any peeling or chalking paint, rainwater (if you collect and drink it) or soil or organic fertiliser that you might want to buy for your veggie garden, with the remainder of the samples in the bigger kit. It doesn't matter (to us or to the lab analyst) over what time period or in how many batches you send the 8 samples to the lab.

I should also let you know that some Councils require you to submit a Development Application (DA) for the removal of soil so you should check with your Council if they do or don't require a DA.

All the best with your green plan.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

See: Is your yard lead safe?

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