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Many Gardeners At Risk from Toxic Lead in Soil

post #1 of 10
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Toxic Lead in Soil


Check out this post I found at  This is pretty interesting stuff:


"You may have purchased organic seeds, carefully worked your own compost into the ground, and pulled weeds by hand. But all your hard work could still be undermined, and not just by gophers, mildew or beetles. As the Boston Globe points out, decades of use of lead in gasoline and paint have left a toxic legacy in the ground in many areas, and the heavy metal may be entering your hard-earned produce..."


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post #2 of 10

If anyone has ever had the soil from their garden tested, I'd like to hear what the results were.  I never realized lead was such an issue in residential areas.  It sounds like areas that were developed when leaded gasoline and paint were available would be a much higher risk.

post #3 of 10

I wonder if this is something that farmers check for? 

post #4 of 10

Well I can speak for the site we're currently working on.  It's on a former air force base with several buildings that probably had lead-based paint, and had lots of vehicles driving around it, etc.  Lead isn't a big chemical of concern in the soil.  It's a bit high but not terribly so - sometimes above residential cleanup levels, but below industrial levels.


Maybe something to think about if you've got an old house that may have had lead-based paint.  Or perhaps if your yard may have been used for some sort of auto repair.  Not something I would worry about in most cases though.


According to the Boston Globe article, about 10% of homes have lead levels above the 400 ppm limit.  So if you're going to grow veggies, it may be worth having the soil tested.


As for farmers though, it's not something to worry about because most of their cropland is away from buildings and roads.

Edited by dana1981 - Mon, 11 Aug 2008 20:56:05 UTC
post #5 of 10
Originally Posted by teej:

If anyone has ever had the soil from their garden tested, I'd like to hear what the results were.


Well this article got me thinking.  We're just starting a garden, and to keep it fenced off from the dogs we had to put it right next to the house, which was built during the 50s, so at some point it could very well have been covered in lead-based paint.  So today I took a soil sample to a nearby lab to be tested for lead.  Should have the results in 10 days, and I'll report back then.


On a side note, the trip from my house to the lab to work was 31 miles, and I made it just as my EVD battery started to die out, so I got to verify the 30+ mile range.  Two Huddler birds with one stone!

post #6 of 10

I'm curious to see what your results are, I'm currently growing a bunch of tomatos and hot peppers next to my house that was built in 1925. Not that I'm especially worried, lead is more of an issue for children (of which we have none).

post #7 of 10

Lead poisoning is a threat to adults too.  It certainly doesn't hurt to know how much lead is in your garden soil - the test at a private lab cost me $25 for the 10 day turnaround time.  I've heard that university labs will do the test for even cheaper.

post #8 of 10

I got the results today (that was quick), and my garden soil has 33 ppm of lead, which is pretty minimal.  EPA residential cleanup level is 150 ppm in California and 400 ppm nationally (California EPA is more conservative than US EPA). 


As I recall, that's a little high for background around here, but obviously nothing to worry about since it's well below EPA standards.  So my garden is good to go!

Edited by dana1981 - Sat, 23 Aug 2008 00:13:24 GMT
post #9 of 10

That's great to hear that even soil next to an older home is well within safe limits.  Thanks for taking the time to get it tested and sharing the results.


Did they only test for lead or are there any other results that might be interesting?

post #10 of 10

Well of course these were just the results for my home, which for all I know was never covered in lead based paint (LBP).  Though as I said, 33 ppm is a bit high, so that may indicate that there was LBP involved at some point.


I only had them test it for lead.  The more tests, the more expensive it gets :-)  I'm not concerned about any other contaminants though, since it's been a residential lot for a long time.  No reason to expect any petroleum products in the backyard, or any metals besides lead above background.


Of course there are tons of contaminants you can test soil for, but in the environmental consulting biz, you only test for what you have reason to suspect to be there.  So for me that's just lead.

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