August 11, 2008

Officials: Lead May Be in Urban Gardens

Environmental officials have warned that dangerous levels of lead may exist in urban gardens throughout the United States.

Boston University School of Public Health professor Wendy Heiger-Bernays said gardens in most U.S. cities likely contain unsafe levels of the metallic element, but associated risks could be contained through careful gardening, The Boston Globe said Monday.

"If I had a garden in the urban environment I would just assume there is lead in the soil," the associate professor of environmental health said.

Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, soil is considered contaminated if it has 400 parts lead per million parts of soil.

Environmental officials have recommended urban gardeners choose a spot far away from their home as a precaution and use raised beds if lead levels reach dangerous levels.

The Globe said officials also recommend focusing urban gardening efforts on vegetables that traditionally absorb less lead such as corn, peas, squash and tomatoes.

Root vegetables, along with potatoes and leafy vegetables, are considered more risky because of their higher lead absorption rates.