Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Urban Gardens Suffering from Soil Contamination

by Duane Craig

Philadelphia lead risk for children
Backyard gardeners in Indianapolis are being advised to get their soil tested to see just how much lead it contains. Gabriel Filippelli, an earth sciences professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, claims that 90 percent of the soil being used by urban gardeners there needs some kind of work to mitigate pollution.

Not surprisingly, soil near the street and that below the drip line of a house have the highest levels of lead, but this warning isn’t just for Indianapolis. The long love affair with the automobile has left many urban soils contaminated with lead. The pollution persists even though lead was largely eliminated from gasoline by 1996 after a 25-year process.

Lead is only one of the problems though. Other culprits left over from the industrial “devolution” include polyaromatic hydrocarbons and arsenic. Unfortunately there is evidence that a one-time cleanup of soil will not necessarily do the trick. One project in Boston found the lead levels tripled in four years when fresh, composted soil was placed over contaminated soil in raised beds. Experts say that most garden plants will not uptake lead, but the soil being tracked into homes and that left on vegetables without a thorough washing poses dangers to children especially.

Read just one of the many stories here.

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