Navigation Links
Urban gardeners beware: There may be lead in your soil and food

INDIANAPOLIS Not since victory gardens helped World War II era Americans on the home front survive food shortages have urban gardens been as necessary and popular as they are today. With more food production in cities, the safety of the produce grown there becomes increasingly important.

As city dwellers across the country are harvesting fruits and vegetables for family consumption and planning ahead for the next planting season, geochemist Gabriel Filippelli, Ph.D., professor of earth sciences at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, warns that urban soil may be contaminated with lead. He advises investigating the legacy of contamination in soil before planting and eating.

"Most surface contamination in urban settings like Baltimore, Brooklyn, Detroit or Indianapolis is from harmful metals, especially lead, and tends to be found near roadways, older homes or lead smelters. Sources of contamination can be automobile exhaust, degraded paint, tire and vehicle debris, industrial emissions or other products of human technology," said Filippelli, who is an international leader in the emerging field of medical geology.

He encourages urban gardeners to study a map of their metropolitan area and determine potential soil contamination risk by proximity to busy streets, major roadways, freeways, dilapidated painted structures or older industrial facilities.

Gardens with no or low levels of lead contamination as determined by location or with test results of less than 200 parts per million (ppm) can be abundantly planted, but may benefit from high phosphate fertilizer which immobilizes metals like lead.

For gardens at medium risk based on location or soil tested at 200-500 ppm, he recommends covering the soil, planting in raised bed settings, and mulching between beds to reduce the risks of tracking lead-rich soil onto the plots or into the home.

For gardens at high lead risk or found to have lead levels of over 500 ppm, he counsels proceeding with caution as contamination could be coming from the soil below and the air above. While taller fruit plants are probably safe to consume, root vegetables and leafy greens like lettuce and kale are not, mainly because of the difficulties of cleaning this produce thoroughly before consumption. In this setting, raised-bed planting is critical, as is ensuring mulch or ground cover between beds and extending for 10 feet around the perimeter of the garden.

The produce of all urban gardens, even those at low risk of contamination, should be washed carefully.

"Urban gardens are powerful tools for personal health and for neighborhood revitalization. These plots should be encouraged but need to be tended with special care to ensure that lead does not adhere to the food children and adults are consuming," said Filippelli.

This season, Filippelli and School of Science students are analyzing lead levels in multiple soil samples from an initial 25 urban gardens. They hope to acquire funding to test many more urban plots beginning this autumn to inform urban dwellers, policy makers and researchers.

"Environmental awareness can ensure that a garden is a healthy place to work and that food is safe to eat and share," said Filippelli who has studied lead contamination in urban soil for almost a decade.


Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
Indiana University School of Medicine

Related biology news :

1. Study: urban black bears live fast, die young
2. UC Riverside scientist to explore how vegetation affects urban heat islands
3. Networks of small habitat patches can preserve urban biodiversity
4. Urban trees enhance water infiltration
5. The physics of star-forming clouds and the urban environment
6. A win-win: U-pick pumpkin farms recycle urban leaves
7. New pollution radar developed to provide unprecedented picture of urban smog
8. Urban myth disproved: Fingerprints do not improve grip friction
9. Urban water ecology at the ESA annual meeting
10. Chloride found at levels that can harm aquatic life in urban streams of the Northern US
11. Nitrogen mysteries in urban grasslands
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Urban gardeners beware: There may be lead in your soil and food
(Date:11/9/2015)... 09, 2015 ... the "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market ... --> ) has announced the ... Biometrics Market 2015-2019" report to their ... ( ) has announced the addition ...
(Date:10/29/2015)...   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based eClinical ... research, is pleased to announce that it has been ... one of only three finalists for a 2015 ... Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor Minnesota ... innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ eClinical ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph ... explosion of technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business ... The Internet of Healthy Things . ... smartphones even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, ... care delivery, moving care from the hospital or doctor,s ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... --> --> ... by Transparency Market Research, the global non-invasive prenatal testing ... 17.5% during the period between 2014 and 2022. The ... Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2014 ... to reach a valuation of US$2.38 bn by 2022. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In harsh industrial ... points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where leaking process media ... of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate extreme process conditions. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LOS ANGELES , Nov. 24, 2015 ... a biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development and ... Marban , Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, is scheduled to ... December 1, 2015 at 10:50 a.m. EST, at The ... York City . . ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... Whitehouse Laboratories is pleased to announce that it has completed construction ... dedicated to basic USP 61, USP 62 and USP 51 testing specific to raw ... and micro testing performed by one supplier. Management has formally announced that ...
Breaking Biology Technology: