Organic gardening is a wonderful way to bring fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables straight from your garden to your table. To ensure that your produce is perfect, start with a soil test to make sure you are not planting in a toxic terrain.
After taking the necessary painstaking measures to ensure that your garden contains non-GMO seeds, no chemicals and pesticides, and organic compost to enrich and fertilize the soil, your hard work may be fruitless. If you plant your produce in soil that contains lead, arsenic, petroleum, pesticides, these and other toxins will make their way into your harvest – and into your mouth.
Sources of Soil Contamination:
Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in a neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. Flaking paint chips can also infiltrate into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding a home’s interior walls. Even more disturbing, simply opening and closing windowsills that contain lead paint can release lead dust into your home and yard on a daily basis.
Another possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.
Flooding may also contaminate soil. Storm surges and flooding from storms and hurricanes, like Sandy and Irene, can spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters from Sandy carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s pristine yards, where many of the pollutants remain today.
Effects of Toxic Soil:
The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins – chromium, lead, petroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations, among others – are extensive. According to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), these contaminants can be carcinogenic, and cause disease or other chronic health conditions.
What Can You Do?
The first line of protection for you and your family is to have your soil tested. A certified environmental testing company, like RTK, can tell you if your soil is safe. If the test reveals the levels of lead or other toxins in your soil are too high, several options exist to fix the problem – including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.