Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gardeners: Get the Lead Out of Your Soil

Your garden looks great, but is your soil contaminated with lead? The answer might well be yes if you garden is near a house or fence that was painted before 1970. But never fear... once again compost is the gardener's best friend.; it can render lead inactive. Here are highlights from the Cleveland Plain Dealer article "Getting the Lead Out" (by Michael Scott, July 18, 2010):

Reduce the risk of lead in the soil by using compost:

"The science behind it is actually quite simple.... In short, any time you mix a phosphorous material -- manure, food scrap compost, mulch, bone meal -- any dangerous lead in the soil attaches itself to that material.

'The problem with lead is that it can be sitting in the environment indefinitely, but when it hits stomach acid after you ingest some dust, it dissolves,' Basta said. 'When it does, it essentially attaches itself to our bones,' he said.

But by simply mixing compost materials into soil, we force lead to make that attachment before it goes airborne -- rendering it harmless to our bodies if we do end up breathing it in."

The effects of lead are well known. The article also discusses the problems. Basically, lead is a poison that affects brain functioning. In the garden you breath in the dust and the lead gets into your blood. By composting and using raised beds the lead in the soil is essentially rendered harmless.

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