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Gardening Health Soil and Water

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

 

How to Get the Healthiest Crop From Your Garden

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.

Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

Categories
Gardening Soil and Water

Gardening 101: Start With Clean Soil

Garden TomatoNow that the weather is warming up, the garden beckons. Thoughts of luscious vegetables and gorgeous flowers bloom. But before you start turning over the garden, get your soil tested. What you may not realize is that the soil around your house may be hosting a variety of contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. And the impact on your family’s health from these unseen dangers may be great.

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in garden soil contaminationa neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding during the prep period, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. (Up until 1978, most paint contained lead.) Flaking paint chips can also find their way into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding home’s interior walls.

tainted compostAnother 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.

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins — chromium, lead and other metals, contaminated soil connecticutpetroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations – are many. These contaminants can be carcinogenic, cause congenital disorders or other chronic health conditions. Pregnant women and children are at the highest risk. In fact, more than 500,000 children are poisoned each year by lead.

The only way to protect your family is to have your soil tested by an environmental testing company. They can tell you if your soil is safe, and if there is a problem, can inform you of how to correct it. Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.

 

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Flooding & Water Damage Health Soil and Water Video

Testing on soil covered by Superstorm Sandy floodwater reveals contaminants – Part 2

In part two of this incredible investigation, RTK helps News 12 New Jersey uncover contaminants in some NJ soil post-Superstorm Sandy.

If you think you may have contaminated soil from Superstorm Sandy flooding, feel free to contact us at (800) 392-6468 to discuss, or click here.

Categories
Flooding & Water Damage Soil and Water

Sandy’s Floodwaters Are Gone, But Toxic Sludge Could Remain on Your Lawn

sandy toxic floodwaterThe storm surge and flooding that washed over much of the tri-state during Hurricane Sandy spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s basements and pristine yards, and the pollutants remain today.

Hurricane Sandy “The water from Hurricane Sandy was quite different than other storms,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “As we test people’s homes and soil, we are finding that the water from Superstorm Sandy contained a toxic sludge,” he explained. “Bacteria, sewage, gasoline, PCBs, oil, feces, industrial solvents, heavy metals – you can’t even imagine some of the things we are finding left in homes and their lawns.”

Concern about post-Hurricane Sandy sludge has prompted the Environmental Protection Hurricane Sandy floodingAgency to test baseball fields in Lyndhurst, NJ for contaminants, according to NorthJersey.com. The fear is that Sandy spread waste created by decades of manufacturing pesticides and herbicides, including Agent Orange, at nearby facilities. In another instance, Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, NJ has had to remove and clean fuel-stained headstones after Sandy drenched the cemetery with an oil-rich tidal surge from a nearby refinery, The Star-Ledger reports.

Boys In DirtIf you were flooded during Hurricane Sandy, find out if your home is safe by having your property tested right away. Once spring comes, your children and pets will be playing in that soil, and the effect on their health could be devastating. For more information on water and soil contamination, click here. Call RTK today at (800) 392-6468 or click here to book an appointment.

Categories
Health Mold

Container Gardens – Are You Growing Something Gross?

Summer is in full swing – and so are our flourishing gardens. But where you planted your herbs and vegetables can make all the difference between a healthy harvest and a moldy mess.

Mold may not harm your petunias, but if you plan to consume your fresh herbs or vegetables, you may have a problem. It is important to check your container gardens for signs of mold growth. Many molds and mold spores can be detrimental to human health.

The growth of mold usually starts on the stems of plants near the soil, where it is dark and damp, and then travels to the leaves. It can look fuzzy, slimy – even crumbly. The color can vary tremendously – black, green, brown, or even white.

The most likely culprit for mold growth in container gardens is over-watering. People are so concerned with making sure their plants are getting enough water that they don’t consider the possibility that the plants are getting too much. More sun can help counter this problem. Another mistake is not having proper drainage at the bottom of your container. If there are no holes for the excess water to drain through, it collects and rots the organic material inside the pot.

If over-watering is not the problem, there are natural methods for fighting mold, like garlic or cinnamon. Check out some additional tips here. A last measure would be a chemical spray, although this should be avoided at all costs if you are planning to eat what you grow.

Container gardens are a wonderful option for gardeners. Be sure to keep yours mold free! And in order to be confident in the soil in which your garden is planted, choose a food-grade potting soil or consider a soil assessment from a reputable environmental testing service provider.

Categories
Gardening Soil and Water

Could Your Compost Be Contaminated?

You may want to think twice before biting into that home grown tomato! Sure homegrown produce tastes better, but using public compost could expose your veggies—and you—to damaging levels of lead. Here’s why: Many municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting to later be shared with the community. Unfortunately, as they recently found out in Boston, if the materials coming from homes are tainted with lead or other contaminants, consequently so is the compost.

Environmental officials recommend that compost containing lead concentrations of more than 150 parts per million not be used in gardens. Last year, Boston’s mean concentration of lead in compost was 299 parts per million, with a high of 480 parts per million (far exceeding limits). As a result of severely elevated concentrations of lead, thousands of tons of compost were ruled to be off limits to Boston residents who were hoping to take advantage of the free fertilizer. This lead-riddled compost, predominantly used to grow fruits and vegetables, is extremely hazardous to your health as the contaminants from the soil spread to the produce you later consume.

But Boston isn’t the only city with older homes, which typically have old lead paint. In the New York Tri-State area, more than 80% of homes were built prior to 1978, the year that lead paint was banned. If not properly cared for, simply opening a door or window in one of these homes could spread of toxic lead dust, not only in the house, but throughout the yard and neighborhood as well.

If you live in a home built pre-1978 or in an area with older homes, be sure to have your home and soil tested – especially if you plan to share your lawn clippings with your municipality for composting. Lead poisoning is preventable – be sure you do your part!

 

 

 

Categories
Gardening Lead Soil and Water

Are You Putting Toxic Food In Your Tummy?

The gardener’s gloves are on. The seeds are ready. But are the soil and water are safe and toxin-free? Before you plant those vegetable gardens, you need to find out. Otherwise, you could be eating a harmful harvest in the summer and fall.

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. So how does lead get in your soil? When your older home’s exterior is painted, the first step is sanding, which spews lead dust through the air, landing on your property. Flaking paint chips can also be ground into the soil, or in some cases, paint can peel right off the home. Also, if the home’s interior is painted and sanded, often windows are left open to disburse the dust. And guess where that lead dust falls? In your yard.

The water you use to soak the garden also may contain contaminants from a variety of sources including an aging water distribution system, age and the type of pipes in your home, soil pollution from fertilizer and nitrates, and groundwater elements. Certain chemicals can have devastating effects on our health, even in miniscule concentrations. Contaminated water can cause severe kidney damage; intestinal lesions; sensory, neurological, and respiratory damage; blue-baby syndrome; and shortness of breath.

There are steps you can take to lessen these dangers. Most importantly, hire a certified environmental inspector to test your soil and water for contaminants. You may be free of toxins. But then again, you may find that you have true health hazards.

Some other steps you can take:

  • Position the garden as far away as possible from any pre-1978 built homes.
  • Use a garden hose filter to lessen impurities.
  • Consider bed gardening, which raises the garden above soil level. And then fill with clean garden soil.
  • Erect a fence or a hedge to act as a buffer against any blowing lead dust.
  • Keep children away from any lead-tainted soil. Never let children eat the soil.
  • Wear protective clothing when gardening. Remove your clothes before entering your home, and place them in a plastic bag. The next stop is your washing machine. Tracking lead dust into a home is a common way for lead to enter a home.
  • Soils high in organic matter and compost with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0 do a better job of binding lead in the soil, preventing it from being absorbed by plants.

If the test reveals the levels of lead in your soil are just too high, you may want to consider remediation of the contaminated soil. There are several options, including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified lead inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Click here to schedule a test of your soil and water.

 

Categories
Gardening Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water

Go Outside & Play – But This Time, in Clean Dirt!

How safe are your children when they are playing outside in your yard? Maybe not safe enough.

Consider this: You probably take great safety precautions like making your kids wear bike helmets and sunscreen. But have you checked your soil and pool water for lead dust?

Most people have no idea that lead dust – that is dust that usually comes from old paint that is disturbed by renovation work (sanding and scraping; opening and closing windows); the dust flies through the air and lands in the yard. Since spending time outdoors should be a healthy activity, it pays to find out if the soil is “clean” – free from lead. Soil with high lead levels can be a danger, though – especially to kids. Children can actually be poisoned from lead dust, which could lead to autism-like symptoms, ADD, violent behavior, reduced IQ and a host of other issues. Lead dust can also be tracked inside on people’s shoes.

It can also travel from your neighbors’ renovations to your property if they are not following proper Lead Safe work practices. Lead dust has also been found in high concentrations in pool water.

If you are not sure about the soil your child is playing in, have your soil and water tested for lead and other toxins by a professional. Here are some other tips to minimize risk:

– Children and adults should wash their hands before and after playing or working outside;

– Change clothing after playing or working in the yard or garden;

– Create a safe play area for your child – a sandbox with clean sand and a cover is ideal if you think you may have lead dust around your home or neighborhood;

– Wash any toys that were used in dirt that may contain lead dust with soap and water;

– Any bare soil outside your home should be covered with sod, mulch, or gravel to reduce the hazard;

– Cover your pool when it is not in use;

– If lead levels are found to be high in your yard, tainted soil may actually need to be removed and clean soil may need to be brought in;

– A floor mat inside the door can help reduce lead dust from being tracked in;

– Take your shoes off when you enter your house and leave them at the door.

Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors. Be sure to do it safely!

 

 

 

Categories
Gardening Soil and Water

Soil Testing: The First Step in Preparing your Spring Garden

Right about now, visions of gorgeous flowers and a bountiful crop of vegetables are dancing in gardeners’ heads.

It’s almost time to start turning over the garden soil. But have you ever thought about soil testing to be sure your soil is free of lead? 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.

So how does lead get in your soil? When your older home’s exterior is painted, the first step is sanding, which spews lead dust through the air, landing on your property. Flaking paint chips can also be ground into the soil, or in some cases, paint can peel right off the home. Also, if the home’s interior is painted and sanded, often windows are left open to disburse the dust. And guess where that lead dust falls? In your yard.

More than 500,000 children are poisoned each year by lead.

There are steps you can take to lessen the dangers of lead poisoning. Most importantly, hire a certified lead inspector to test your garden to see if your soil contains lead. Your garden may be lead free. But then again, it might not be. Is it worth poisoning your children?

Some other steps you can take:

  • Position the garden as far away as possible from any pre-1978 built homes.
  • Consider bed gardening, which raises the garden above soil level. And then fill with clean garden soil.
  • Erect a fence or a hedge to act as a buffer against any blowing lead dust.
  • Keep children away from any lead-tainted soil. Never let children eat the soil.
  • Wear protective clothing when gardening. Remove your clothes before entering your home, and place them in a plastic bag. The next stop is your washing machine. Tracking lead dust into a home is a common way for lead to enter a home.
  • Soils high in organic matter and compost with pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0 do a better job of binding lead in the soil, preventing it from being absorbed by plants.

If the test reveals the levels of lead in your soil are just too high, you may want to consider remediation of the contaminated soil. There are several options, including soil removal, raising pH levels and adding organic matter, or mixing in new soil. A certified lead inspector can tell you which may be the best option for your situation.

Studies have shown that lead does not accumulate in the fruiting part of the vegetable or fruit such as corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, berries, peaches and apples. It’s the leafy vegetables and the surface of root crops such as carrots, beets and potatoes where the higher concentrations of lead are found. A good practice with all produce — whether you grew it yourself or bought it at the market — is to prepare and wash it well. Some tips:

  • Remove outer leaves from leafy crops.
  • Peel all root crops.
  • Wash all produce in mixture of 1 tablespoon of vinegar mixed into 1½ quarts water, which washes away most of the lead, in addition to other impurities.

Click here to schedule a lead test of your soil.

 

Categories
Gardening Lead Soil and Water

How Safe is Your Home Garden – Pt. 2

If you had your garden tested by a certified lead inspector and found that you do have elevated lead levels, you may be able to wash most of the airborne lead from your fruits and vegetables.

Studies have shown that lead does not accumulate in the fruiting part of the vegetable or fruit, such as corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, berries, peaches, strawberries, and apples. Higher concentrations are more likely to be found in leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, and on the surface of root crops, like carrots, potatoes and beets.

Cleaning your produce is very important if there is any amount of lead in your garden. Here are some helpful hints:

  • Remove outer leaves from leafy crops.
  • Peel all root crops.
  • Wash all produce in water containing vinegar (1 TBSP vinegar, 1 ½ quarts water) or dish soap (1/2 TBSP dishwashing liquid, 1 ½ quarts water). This will wash away most of the airborne lead.

Lead dust is dangerous to everyone – especially children, pregnant women and pets. They may suffer brain damage, loss of IQ, learning disabilities, hearing loss, slowed growth, headaches, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, attention deficit disorder, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems, increase delinquent and antisocial behaviors when the children grow older, reduced neonatal weight, reproductive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Another major problem associated with lead poisoning is high blood pressure and hypertension, which causes strokes and heart attacks, which can lead to death.

Lead doesn’t have to ruin your homegrown produce – take the proper precautions and enjoy.