Growing one’s own vegetables in the garden offers a wealth of benefits. It’s environmentally friendly and better for you and your family’s nutrition, whilst the act of gardening is also a tonic for the mind and body. Whilst it’s possible to restrict the amount of chemicals such as pesticides used in your own garden, what many gardeners are not aware of are the levels of lead which exist in the soil. When we think of soil contamination we tend to think of the area around waste plants or petrochemical factories, but lead exists in all kinds of soil.
Is lead in your soil?
Studies have found that most garden soil contains some levels of lead. The lead in garden soil tends to get there via the lead paint used to decorate homes and also from petrol. It can then enter the plants as they grow and cause inadvertent ingestion of lead. Lead tends to stay in the roots, which means it’s more commonly detected in root vegetables, followed by leafy veg and in the least amounts in flowering plants such as tomatoes. A bigger problem than ingesting the lead is, in fact, inhaling it whilst gardening.
Top tips for avoiding ingestion/inhalation of lead
1. Be sure to thoroughly scrub vegetables before cooking or eating. for ingrained soil even peel or chop away the skin.
2. Use compost in your soil, which dilutes the lead, especially one rich in phosphorous and iron oxide.
3. Plant vegetables away from the house, where lead from paint is more likely to settle in the soil or on the plants themselves.
4. Grow root veg and leafy veg in containers using shop-bought soil and compost.
5. In some instances, the level of lead in your soil may be so high that you need to enlist the help of a soil remediation service. A good soil remediation service will also check for groundwater contamination and treat this as part of the service.
Lead in the soil in your own back garden is more common than you may think, and without knowing you may be inhaling or ingesting it. But don’t let lead stop you growing your own veg. With careful soil management, low levels of lead can be maintained and the risk to your health can be reduced.