Well, the results are in from our soil test, and we are safe and sound, well below the recommended 100-parts per million limit. What a relief! And thanks to our new friends at Wy’East Environmental Sciences for great, friendly service at a great price ($25)–and right down the street on SE 11th, just north of Division.
Testing for lead is very important before starting a new garden, particularly in our case where the lot has an unknown history and a structure that long predates the ban on lead paint. Plants don’t absorb or accumulate very significant amounts of lead as they grow (what little there is can be generally be mitigated by peeling and a good scrub); the greatest risk is from direct consumption of lead-contaminated soil. And as someone who has had a life-long appreciation for playing in the mud and eating fresh-pulled carrots rubbed clean on my jeans and eaten with dirty hands (and who longs to instill this love in others, particularly kids!), knowing that the soil is safe is of the utmost importance.
Fortunately, as I’ve learned from the handy fact-sheet that came with our test results, good nutrition mitigates lead absorption in the body. Iron, Calcium, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Protein are indicated to reduce your body’s uptake of lead, while fried and highly fatty diets allow the body to absorb lead faster. Leafy green vegetables such as kale, arugula, spinach, parsley, and members of the brassica genus are among the best sources for these nutrients, and will fill many of our garden beds this year.
So if you’ve never had your soil tested–particularly if you’ve got kids gardening there, have high traffic or older structures nearby–please look into it. It’s affordable and fast, and as a fellow gardener once pointed out: if you don’t feel safe consuming a little bit of soil, why would you feel safe eating anything that grows out of it?