We love urban gardens for lots of reasons. They turn vacant lots into zones of food production, fill our farmer’s markets with delicious produce, and give backyard hobbyists a way to spend their Sundays. But there’s a potential downside to produce grown in urban soils, according to Johns Hopkins: Soil contamination.
According to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, perhaps our favorite of Hopkins’ many institutes, soil in Baltimore (and other urban areas) is often close to pollution sources, which lead to higher concentrations of soil contaminants. But many urban gardeners don’t know that. “People may come into contact with these contaminants if they work or play in contaminated soil, or eat food that was grown in it. In some cases, exposure to soil contaminants can increase disease risks, especially for young children,” CLF’s Brent Kim told the Hopkins Hub.
“Our study suggests gardeners generally recognize the importance of knowing a garden site’s prior uses, but they may lack the information and expertise to determine accurately the prior use of their garden site and potential contaminants in the soil,” explained Keeve Nachman, lead author of the study. “They may also have misperceptions or gaps in knowledge about how best to minimize their risk of exposure to contaminants that may be in urban soil.”
For more information about how to safely garden in (and consume food from) potentially contaminated soils, check out this useful handout from the EPA.
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