What You Need to Know

Heavy Metals
in Urban Gardens
Downloadable Pamphlets:  

                                                              
                                                 


                                 
  

English          有關重金屬和花園的小冊     

Horticultura Sin Metales Pesados      

Ang Paghahardin ng walang nakalalason na metal      

Làm vườn không cần đến các khoáng chất nặng


Lead, iron, cadmium and nickel are some of the elements known as heavy metals. Though we require some of these elements - such as iron and zinc- for good health, all metals can be toxic if we are exposed to them at high levels.  Being "exposed" refers to when these metals get into our body, mostly by eating, drinking, or breathing particles that are too small to see.  If we are exposed to too much of one metal, it can cause damage to our kidneys, nerves, lungs, bones, or other parts of our body.  While most people are only exposed to a  small quantity of metals by eating produce (Clark, et al., 2008), children and babies grow so fast that their bodies absorb metals at a higher rate than adults.  For this reason, the risk of developing health problems from being exposed to heavy metals is higher for children under 6 and pregnant women with unborn children. 

The most important thing you can do to ensure your garden is healthy is to have the soil tested, regardless if you have children in your household or not.  Once you get the results back, you will be able to take action to manage metals that were found and contact your local Lead Prevention Program for resources if necessary.  If your soil is "safe," you will no longer have to wonder if you have lead in your garden!  (Note: even if your test results show your soil is "safe," you may want to test it every few years to make sure nothing has changed.)

Regardless of age, we all can take these 8 simple actions to minimize the amount of metals we are exposed to:

  1. Test your soil for heavy metals and pH.
  2. Wash and scrub produce before eating and soak green leafy vegetables like kale and collards in a solution of 1/2 cup vinegar to approximately 3 1/2 cups of water. (Bassuk, 1986)
  3. Peel root crops and discard the top few layers of cabbage-like greens.  Dust particles that can contain lead and other metals can accumulate under these outer leaves.
  4. Grow fruits and above-ground vegetables instead of root crops, since they usually have less metals in their tissues and on their surface.  (Finster, et al., 2004)
  5. Add compost to your garden every year.
  6. Adjust your pH to be between 6.5 and 7.0.  Ask a nursery which products are right for your soil.
  7. Limit the amount of soil children "eat" by keeping their hands out of their mouth, having them wash their hands frequently, and covering bare dirt with mulch. 
  8. Eat a healthy diet, including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods rich in Iron.  Poor diets can result in the body absorbing more metals than it would normally (Farias, et al., 1996; Mahaffey, 1990)


View and Print Pamphlets on Heavy Metals & Gardening



Pamphlet on Heavy Metals in Urban Gardens
(English)




有關重金屬和花園的小冊 
(Chinese)



Horticultura Sin Metales Pesados

(Spanish)


Ang Paghahardin ng walang nakalalason na metal

(Tagalog)


Làm vườn không cần đến các khoáng chất nặng

(Vietnamese)