The Importance of Testing Your Soil For Lead

The Importance of Testing Your Soil For Lead


Soil and groundwater contamination is a major concern in urban properties, as well as agricultural land. Among the most toxic substances present in the soil of residential properties are heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, zinc, and mercury. Lead is one of the most common and also one of the most toxic contaminants found in contaminated soil. Therefore, it’s important to have your soil tested for this toxic contaminant regularly.



The effects of lead on human health


Let’s begin with the effects on human health. Lead is a toxic chemical, and its presence in our organs is detrimental to our health. Increased levels in the body can cause a medical condition called lead poisoning. Once this toxic chemical enters your system and accumulates in your organs, it interferes with several important body processes. High concentrations in our body can damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, bones, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, reproductive system, and other organs and tissues.


Since children like to play outdoors — garden, lawn and play areas — and often neglect to wash hands, they are particularly vulnerable to the risk of lead poisoning. Affected children are at risk of permanent learning and behavioral disorders, impaired physical development, shortened attention spans, lower IQ, hyperactivity, and mental disorientation. This substance is more toxic to children under the age of 6 because their immune systems are not well-developed. Adults exposed to lead-contaminated soils may experience memory loss, nausea, decreased reaction time, insomnia, weakness of the joints, and anorexia.


The Importance of Testing Your Soil For Lead


Symptoms of lead poisoning include abdominal pain, headache, confusion, irritability, and anemia. In severe cases, it can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.


The two ways this toxic chemical from contaminated soil can enter your body are inhalation and ingestion. Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, and kale, and root crops, such as carrots, turnips, and sweet potatoes, grown in highly contaminated garden soil can have a high concentration. Fortunately, lead does not accumulate in the fruiting parts of fruits and vegetables, such as squash, tomatoes, beans, and strawberries. Since plants do not absorb this toxic substance in large quantities from the soil, vegetables and fruits grown in soil with less than 300 ppm lead are safe to consume.


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the acceptable ppm lead in residential soil is 400 ppm for play areas and 1,200 ppm for nonplay areas.



Sources of lead contamination in urban soil


Sources of contamination in soil include fertilizers, pesticides, biosolids and manures, wastewater, lead-based paint, metal mining, mining processes, industrial wastes, duct emissions (of air, gas or vapor streams), and fugitive emissions, such as dust from storage areas and waste piles.


Fertilizers and pesticides are the main contaminators of garden soils. Although lead is of no use to plants — whether as a macronutrient or a micronutrient — it exists in fertilizers as impurities. Repeated use of fertilizers increases the concentration of lead in the soil. Some pesticides contain lead arsenate, which is effective in killing some tough parasitic insects.


Biosolids, such as composts, livestock manures, and municipal sewage sludge also contain lead along with other heavy metals. If repeatedly applied, these can cause a buildup of lead in the soil. Wastewater is another source, although it doesn’t contain the metal in a significant amount.



How to test your soil for lead contamination


The testing of soil is done by trained technicians in a laboratory, but you can also do it yourself using soil testing kits. Take several small samples of soil using a spade or trowel from random spots in your garden. The samples should be dry. Mix the soil samples in a container. Remove pebbles, roots, leaves and other substances, if there are any.


If you want to do the test yourself, follow the instructions that came with the soil testing kit. If you want to send the sample to a lab, then transfer the test soil to a plastic bag and seal it. Mail the sample to the testing site. You will receive the test results within days. Follow up with the testing site and listen to its advice to reduce this contaminant in your soil.



To learn more about soil contamination

Feel free to contact the environmental experts at All American Environmental located in NJ.  A professional will be happy and ready to assist you.

Contact by phone at (973) 663-1680,


or through our contact form.