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Urban gardeners often unaware of soil contaminants: study

April 16, 2014

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Baltimore – Gardeners in urban areas need more education on harmful contaminants that may be present in soils due to pollution and other sources, concludes a recent study.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future interviewed 70 gardeners from Baltimore and 18 experts with insight into soil contamination in the city. The researchers found that gardeners had little concern and knowledge about common urban soil contaminants, including heavy metals and organic chemicals, which can come from industrial areas and heavy traffic. These contaminants could harm gardeners while working in the soil and make the food they grow dangerous to consume, especially for young children, the researchers said. They recommend urban gardeners become familiar with the following:

  • Types of urban soil contaminants, such as oil, lead and asbestos
  • Best practices for limiting contaminant exposure during gardening
  • Instructions on managing or preventing soil contamination

The experts also suggested that communities step in to provide government-funded site histories and soil testing services for urban gardeners.

The study was published online Feb. 6 in PLoS ONE.