Online Program

Dirty garden soil: Practice steps for cleaner backyard and community gardens

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wendy Heiger- Bernays, Assoc. Professor of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Patrice Barrett, MPH, Dept of Environmmental Health, BU School of Public Health, Moscow, ID
Baram Kim, MS, Dept. of Environmental Health, BU School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Jade Tabony, MS student, Dept. of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Community and backyard gardens created in residential areas provide people with opportunities to improve the overall quality of their lives. These gardens are often located on property with soil contaminated by lead, arsenic and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from decades of human activity. Unacceptable human health risks, especially for children and pregnant women, can result from exposure to soil contaminants through ingestion, inhalation and dermal routes. Risks from contaminated urban soils can be controlled using a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) based on research and methods from academic institutions, state and federal agencies, and international environmental science experts. Data from soils taken from a variety of gardens in Recently conducted fieldwork supports the need for remediation measures and provides data to better understand the scope and focus of the contamination in terms of temporal and spatial distribution. Using these and other published data, growing practices for current and future gardeners that are practical, timely, cost effective and easily implemented, while maximally protective of the public health are stipulated. The multiple BMP steps consist of: 1)researching the property history to inform the successive management steps, 2)garden site planning, 3) elective soil testing for environmental contaminants and nutrient content, 4)interpreting soil test results, 5) re-mediating elevated contaminant levels with tested compost and soil to a distilled set of benchmark levels and constructing raised beds if needed, and 6) adhering to a set of good gardening practices. The greatest part of the environmental risk reduction responsibility rests with individual gardeners and their adherence to the safe gardening practices introduced at proposed ongoing community gardener education sessions. These BMPs encourage a judicious use of resources in global residential areas to help ensure a balance in the benefits of locally grown and healthy produce with the risks of consuming food cultivated in contaminated soils.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Explain pathways for human exposure associated with contaminated garden soils. Name the steps to reduce gardener exposure to contaminated soils.

Keyword(s): Environmental Exposures, Risk Assessment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: N/A

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the co-principal author and researcher of the documents related to this study focusing on best practices for remediation of human exposures to contaminated garden soils.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.