From the White House to community gardens, no one can deny the increasing popularity of growing your own fruits and vegetables. I, myself, have grown a pathetic herb garden in my kitchen window.
However lead contaminants in the soil and water may make your backyard vegetables and herbs inedible! Prolong exposure to lead can cause brain and nervous system, lower IQ, and stunted growth in children. In adults it can lead to cognitive decline, hypertesion, nerve disorders, muscle pain and reproductive disorders. No bueno.
Lead in soil can be caused by a number of factors many of which were used long ago, now banned but still leaving a footprint. Things like lead paint, leaded gasoline, lead plumbing and lead arsenate pesticides are among some of the culprits from years ago that are still linger in the environment. Soil near buildings made before 1978 (when lead-based paint was banned) is likely to contain high levels of lead.
Before planting your garden, consider getting your soil tested. You can ask your local health department where you can get this done. If you have lead-ladened soil, you can still garden. You will just need to alkanize it with some lime or lay some compost. The White House is using a mix of lime and compost to add to the soil for the vegetable garden. Also recommended is planting leafy greens specifically Indian mustard or spinach. By growing spinach for six months, it lowered the lead content by 200 parts per million. But don't eat the spinach. It's toxic!
Of course you can always grow your garden in raised tubs or planters. Either way you choose to grow your garden, its a great choice for your health and pocketbook.
Source: NY Times