A home garden is a unique and hands-on way to connect with your food. But it’s not just which vegetables and herbs you’re planting, it’s what you’re planting it in that counts, too. The fact is that contaminants lurk in your soil, and can greatly affect what you eat, and ultimately your health. Soil can be polluted by harmful contaminants such as lead, asbestos, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals; so it’s important to test your soil before you even start your garden.
Lead is the most common pollutant, especially if your home (or surroundings) were constructed prior to 1978. Before that date, paint contained lead. So, every time the old paint is disturbed (whether renovating or sanding to repaint), lead dust is released. And that dust winds up in the soil and the air you breathe. Lead is highly toxic and can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that was commonly used in construction before the 1980s. Again, if those fibers are disturbed and released into the air, you can be affected. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severely increasing your chances of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.
There are other poisons that can be found in soil – the very solvents, pesticides, and herbicides that are available to the general public and can cause damage to plants, can also affect the soil surrounding your home, and can contaminate water runoff. Pesticides and herbicides can cause neurological poisoning and affect memory, coordination, and response times—especially in children.
Polluted water runoff poses a risk to soil conditions, local water sources, and residential wells. Polluted runoff can result in a variety of health problems and waterborne infectious diseases, especially when water remains stagnant.
So, plant those gardens, but be aware of the noxious elements that can spoil your soil! And remember to have your soil tested by a non-biased environmental company, like RTK Environmental Group, prior to starting any landscaping or gardening projects.