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Heavy metal gardening

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

September 11, 2013

Are there risks from eating urban verge-grown fruit and vegetable? In cities, the answer is YES.

Both verge and backyard soils can be dangerously contaminated with lead and other heavy metals. Dry weather creates dusty soils which are also walked into the house by family and pets, coating inside floors.

Backyard gardeners in Glebe in urban Sydney found that part of their garden where they were growing parsley and lettuce had lead levels of 1300 parts per million, more than 4 times the maximum acceptable level of 300ppm.

Lead contamination Sydney region map (Vanderheyden 2006 and Birch et al 2010)

Lead contamination Sydney region map (Vanderheyden 2006 and Birch et al 2010)

In 2006 testing around Sydney Basin showed that 32% of grown vegetables exceeded acceptable lead limits, most noticeably in parsley, lettuce and leeks. If you want to grow fruit and vegies in urban areas, you should build up new garden beds and create new soil. Alkaline soils prevent excessive lead take-up so the limed soils preferred by brassica type vegetables are also a safer alternative.

On Saturday September 14, 2013 you can take a soil sample from your Sydney backyard to Vegesafe at the Macquarie University Open Day and have it tested for contaminants.

More info at SMH and The Lead Group

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