The popularity of urban gardens has grown scientifically over the pass few years. Urban gardens help provide food security for families who do not have easy access to healthy foods or cannot afford food. With an increase of people creating urban garden they are buying a lot supplies like fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides. What many of these homeowners do not realizes is there are risks of working in an urban garden. Polluted soil and chemical exposers are the most common dangerous health risks in an urban garden. Even using things to help your garden like pesticides and fertilizer can put your health at risk.
Soil contaminates and chemicals are part of urban farming. What people do not realize is that their home soil can contain contaminate residue form past land usage. These contaminates are usually caused by human or environmental factors. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of common contaminated lands. The most common chemical element found in urban gardens is lead. In an article published by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources stated, “ongoing exposure to lead can cause damage to the nervous system and interfere with brain development, along with creating other health problems”. There are other types of contaminates that can be found in urban gardens that can cause major health problems.
List of Contaminates to be Aware of
- Industrial materials
- Chemical waste
- Hazardous materials
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)
Ways to be Exposed
Exposer to contaminates from soil pollution or chemicals can lead to serious health problems. According to the Soil Science Society of America there are several ways how people can be exposed to soil contaminates. The most common ways that a person can be exposed is through indigestion, skin exposer, and inhaling.
Foods grown in contaminated soil can absorb the toxic material in the soil. Eating these foods from contaminated soil without properly cleaning or inspection can lead to severe health risks. Ingesting contaminated food can cause kidney or liver damages.
Skin exposers is another entire point where soil contaminated, or chemical particle can enter the human body. People working in contaminated sites must ware proper personal protective equipment. Skin exposer can cause infections or irritation.
Soil contaminates or chemical sprays are the most common airborne particles that are caused by wind or human disturbance. Inhaling these particles can caused health problems to the respiratory system affect the lungs or nervous systems.
What to do before building
If you are preparing to build an urban garden in your home here are some things to consider. First get to learn the history of your area and your soil. Knowing the history of your site can help you learn if your soil has an agricultural or industrial history. Second test your soil for contaminates to confirm this site is safe. Soil test kits are cheap to buy and easy to use I recommend buying one. If the tests show the soil to be contaminated and damaged maybe consider replacing the entire soil with cleaner plan soil. Finally while working in the garden with any chemicals or fertilizers wear the proper personal protective gear to avoid contaminate exposer it will keep you safe. There is a lot of benefits of having your own urban garden but make sure you know how to properly manage your garden to produce healthy food options for your family.
Soil Science Society of America, Soil Contaminants (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.soils.org/about-soils/contaminants/
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Polluting our Soils is Polluting our Future (February 2, 2018). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1126974/
Surls R., Borel V., Biscaro A., Soils in Urban Agriculture: Testing, Remediation and Best Management Practices for California Community Gardens, School Gardens, and Urban Farms (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://learn-us-east-1-prod-fleet02-xythos.content.blackboardcdn.com/5eb1a317e2761/8161119?X-Blackboard-Expiration=1606392000000&X-Blackboard-Signature=F%2BBhgzxM57nExzJDjg9CQGVpu9q7h82oiCvigJviyTw%3D&X-Blackboard-Client-Id=133161&response-cache-control=private%2C%20max-age%3D21600&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%2A%3DUTF-8%27%27ANR%2520Publication%25208552%2520Soils%2520in%2520Urban%2520Agriculture%25281%2529.pdf&response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Date=20201126T060000Z&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Expires=21600&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAZH6WM4PL5SJBSTP6%2F20201126%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Signature=f7a969187fb0885aabee828ea3dfe3d87eaf6d5a796d8cd04da8e5d011584228
United States Environmental Protection Agency, Contaminated Land (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/contaminated-land