Friday, August 18, 2017

How to Protect Against Lead-Contaminated Garden Soil

Growing one's own vegetables is fun, healthy, and even financially rewarding. However, there's a potential ingredient in some garden soils that represents none of the above. It's lead, and it's a threat to everyone's health. Here are some ways to deal with lead-contaminated garden soil.

Understand the Origins of Lead in Soil 
A bunch of carrots kept on a table

The presence of lead in garden soil is usually due to discarded gasoline or the remnants of lead-based paint. To a lesser extent, pesticides, lead-acid batteries, coal-based furnaces, and smelters are also culprits.

Recognize At-Risk Foods

A person affected by lead in garden soil has usually eaten vegetables contaminated in the garden or inhaled the soil through its dust. Lead is most easily absorbed and retained in root vegetables. Carrots and sweet potatoes are the most vulnerable, with leafy vegetables like lettuce and Swiss Chard also at risk. Fruiting vegetables like tomatoes are the least likely to be affected.

Compost to Dilute Lead's Presence

Adding an organic matter like compost dilutes the overall concentration of lead in garden soil, reducing the amount of lead that might be absorbed by vegetables. The iron oxides and phosphorus in compost also help retain the lead in soils and reduce its availability to plants.

Wash Vegetables to Remove Soil

The accidental ingestion of lead-contaminated garden soil can be avoided by vigorously washing all vegetables in pure, clean water. When a vegetable is hard to clean, get rid of its exposed areas, including the lower and outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Do note, however, that this is most effective for removing the soil. If the vegetable itself contains lead, washing will not make it safer to eat.

Choose the Garden Location Wisely

Confronting lead contamination can be as easy as choosing the place to plant a garden. If it's an old home, schedule a lead inspection. If it tests positive, don't plant vegetables near the house, where flakes of lead paint may have fallen.

Improve pH Levels

Soil pH is the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, and it can affect how much lead is retained in the soil. Gardeners can adjust the pH level by adding sulfur or peat to make the soil more acidic, and adding lime to make the soil more alkaline (basic). Neutral and alkaline soils hold slightly more lead, which may help prevent the lead from spreading to the vegetables.

ASAP Environmental, Inc. is here to perform any lead paint inspection, risk assessment, dust testing, or clearance inspection that may be necessary. Call 800-349-7779 or fill out the online contact form today.