Toxins in Vegetables: Backyard Gardens with Lead


A recent study by Macquarie University researchers shows a clear correlation between vegetable patches and lead-related toxins. The research found that 35% of backyards in Australia have high levels of lead. Additionally, in every three vegetable patches, one is highly contaminated with the toxic substance. 

According to research, lead causes stunted brain development in children and can increase the risk of health conditions such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons. The study author, and environmental scientist, Dr. Cynthia Isley told the Daily Mail that poor brain development translates to lower social-economic outcomes later in life.

So how do lead minerals gain their way into the human body and cause diseases? According to Dr. Isley, when children play in lead-contaminated areas, they handle the dirt and might put their hands in their mouth.

Toxins in Vegetable Growth

During the study, participants from Australia gave up to five soil samples from various food supply gardens. Research experts from Macquarie University analyzed 15,000 soil samples from 3,600 Australian homes. After soil analysis, these experts found the soils to have alarming levels of lead. The researchers employed the x-ray fluorescent method to analyze the soil samples.

These backyards and vegetable patches are near old buildings, so what happens is that leaded paint peels off from these houses and finds its way into the soil during rainy seasons. Notably, these toxic substances can also come from risk factors like petrol fumes trapped within the ground.

The study also found that 31% of vegetable gardens from Sydney and 19% from Melbourne and Brisbane are likely to produce food products containing toxic compounds. The high level in these inner-city yards is due to high traffic, and painters may have painted the houses with leaded paint.

Strange Times, Innovative Solutions 

Residents should get their soils tested by the experts and plan to make moves to curb the rise of children’s brain damage caused by toxins. As recommended by Dr. Isley, these moves include raising the vegetable food products with soil from the nursery then covering the exposed ground with mulch. 

Some residents have already implemented Dr. Isley’s recommendations in their gardens. A good example is Georgia Steal, a mother of two from Sydney. During an interview with Daily Mail, Georgia said she built a raised veggie after finding building scraps in her backyard.

 “Sometimes when it rains, the kids will go and splash in the mud in the park, but I can’t stop them from exploring everything. But we don’t have the soil exposed in our garden”, said Georgia.

Anyone interested in their soil being tested by Macquarie University should visit the Macquarie University’s Vegesafe website.