Lessons of Lead in Local Urban Gardens: Raised Beds Not Enough

An urban garden in Fort Meyers, FL

Michelle Obama has got us all seeding our little urban vegetable gardens. But if you live in an older city — say, Boston and its environs — there’s a significant danger of lead in the soil, and lead carries particular risks for children’s brains. Feeding lead-tainted kale to the kids is not the locavore idea.

So what to do? Widespread wisdom holds that it’s enough to build a raised bed, with pristine topsoil. But researchers from Wellesley college are reporting at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver that judging by some mysterious contamination found in Dorchester and Roxbury, raising beds may not be good enough, because the soil in them soon measures high in lead again. (The abstract is here.)

Let me jump ahead to the solution: clear away the top couple of inches of soil every year.

Now more on the problem, as described by the Geological Society: Continue reading