Starting a vegetable garden is a rewarding project, and after spending some time learning the ins and outs of what to grow, they’re pretty easy to manage.
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A veggie garden allows you to grow fresh, organic food in your own backyard for a much lower price. However, it might be too good to be true.
A new study shows that about a fifth of Australian vegetable gardens is likely to produce food that contains dangerous levels of toxic lead.
Led by experts at Macquarie University and published in the Environment International journal, the study analysed 17,256 garden soils from 3609 homes across the country for toxic trace metal contamination. Researchers revealed the results were “sobering” as 35 per cent of Australian homes were found to be at risk of contamination.
“The results show 35% of homes, particularly those that are older, painted, and located in inner cities having soils above the Australian residential guideline (300 mg/kg) for the neurotoxic trace metal lead,” the study read.
What to do about contaminated soil
Though the study warns of toxic levels, the biggest issue at the moment is the lack of public awareness.
In a bid to fix this, Macquarie University launched VegeSafe in 2013, a community science participation program run by university staff. The initiative is one-of-a-kind and aims to inform the community about metal contaminants in their garden.
VegeSafe has a soil metal testing program where all Australians can send soil from their garden to receive a soil analysis, as well as advice on what to do next depending on the results.
VegeSafe’s motto ‘carry on gardening’ aligns with the research which believes the "benefits of urban gardening significantly outweigh potential risks caused by trace metal contamination"
And while many chemicals are toxic to human systems at only low levels, it doesn’t hurt to be informed, aware, and to get your soil tested.