Concern for lead levels in Australian veggie patches
A RMIT University study has found Australians growing veggie patches could be planting in areas contaminated with high levels of lead.
RMIT researchers tested 136 veggie patches in Melbourne’s metropolitan area, finding one-in-five were contaminated with high levels of lead, exceeding Australian safety guidelines.
Community gardens were also tested with 8 per cent of 13 tested gardens containing lead above Australian safety guidelines.
Lead researcher, Associate Professor Suzie Reichman, said the high levels of lead in some backyard veggie patches could likely be attributed to their proximity to old houses painted with deteriorating lead paint.
“The older the house, the more lead generally found in the garden soil,” Associate Professor Reichman said.
“We found that the concentration of lead in soil was higher in painted homes, and in soil underneath the dripline.”
The researchers said home vegetable growers should get their soils tested for lead contamination, something which can be done through Macquarie University’s VegeSafe program.
If backyard soil exceeds safe lead levels (300 mg/kg), the researchers suggest gardeners grow vegetables in raised garden beds with soil that has safe lead levels. It was also suggested growers could consider avoiding growing vegetables that are known for lead accumulation such as low grown leafy vegetables like lettuce and carrots.