Edible-looking backyard vegetable patches in Yeronga have high levels of toxic lead, according to a study published in the journal Environment International from the experts at Macquarie University.
The research found traces of lead in 19 percent of Brisbane’s backyard gardens with the highest readings in Yeronga and Holland Park. In one of the most extensive studies to be conducted in the country, Professor Mark Taylor’s team analysed 17,256 soil samples across 3,600 homes.
The experts learned that 35 percent of the soil samples exceeded the Australian guidelines for lead content at more than 300 milligrams per kilogram. Most of these soil samples were collected from old properties, inner-city locations, and areas with much traffic congestion.
- About 35 percent of backyard garden soil in Australia contains high levels of lead, based on a study from Macquarie University.
- In Brisbane, Yeronga and Holland Park have the highest reading of traces of lead in the soil.
- Experts at Macquarie University suggested workarounds for gardeners to prevent contamination.
Over time, a build-up of lead in the body, from eating contaminated produce, can bring serious health impacts, especially in children.
“The effects would include developmental delays, ADHD behaviours, increased irritability, and poorer executive functioning,” the experts noted in their research.
However, Prof Taylor said that they released the study to help gardeners find a workaround instead of discouraging the public to tend to a garden.
The experts recommend planting on raised garden beds with clean and fresh soil using compost and mulch to lessen the amount of lead. Leafy green vegetables tend to absorb more of the soil’s content and if the gardeners are growing these in their backyard, consumption should be lessened among kids or pregnant women.
Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables plucked from the backyard garden before eating. The play area for the children and animals should be far away from the vegetable patch so that contaminated soil cannot be transported inside the house.
Macquarie University runs a VegeSafe program to test the level of lead on the soil and they are encouraging residents to send soil samples if they want to know if the condition of their backyard garden.