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Those leafy greens and crunchy carrots from your garden may contain more than their fair share of healthy vitamins and minerals. A growing concern among environmentalists and avid gardeners is the potential for high levels of lead to be present in urban and suburban soil. According to the Boston Globe, The University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab takes in up to 16,000 soil samples a year from concerned gardeners and finds that on average 10% of them contain unhealthy levels of lead. Children exposed to lead can potentially develop learning disabilities and behavioral problems and adults can experience high blood pressure and reproductive problems. Experts say the best thing you can do for healthy living and gardening is to get informed.
"We don't want to discourage people from gardening," Wendy Heiger-Bernays, an environmental health professor, told the Boston Globe. "We want people to garden safely and have a harvest to reap the benefits of nutrition, social and health from working in the garden."
In addition to having your soil checked for contamination, there are several things you can do to ensure you and your garden stay healthy. In general, the soil within six feet of a building usually contains the highest concentration of lead due to fallen paint chips, so you should plant away from the house and/or in raised beds with fresh soil. Also fruit crops like tomatoes, squash, peas, and corn tend to absorb very low levels of lead.
What’s in your garden? Is this the first you've heard of soiled soil? If not, where do you send your soil to get checked? [Boston Globe]