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Is gardening safe in polluted cities? New study says ‘Yes’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

A recent study, conducted by Kansas State University (KSU) researchers, showed that the potential risks involved with the vegetables cultivated in polluted urban soils are not as high as it’s feared to be.

The report was published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, which stated that even though the urban soil often tends to be polluted, the plants do not absorb that much of the pollutants through the soil.

Lately, interest in ‘grow your own’ vegetables is increasing around the world, especially in the cities. Growing vegetables in home gardens is considered to be healthier than buying them from outside vendors as it is believed that home-grown vegetables have lower levels of pesticides. In addition, there’s always a fear that people might be consuming high levels of pollutants considering that urban soil is contaminated with chemicals.

In 2014, a study was conducted in the New York City community gardens, which found heavy levels of elements like lead, barium, cadmium and other harmful substance in the soil samples.

The new report published by Kansas State University has come as a reassurance for the city-gardeners.

The Discovery News reported that during the study, the scientists grew tomatoes, collard greens and carrots in urban soil and then analyzed the crops for levels of lead, arsenic and compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have the potential to be carcinogenic. They found that almost all of the vegetables turned out to have low levels of the various contaminants.

Root crops, such as carrots, were found to have the maximum uptake of substances like lead. However, the scientists reassured that it’s still not unsafe to cultivate and consume these carrots.

KSU assistant professor of agronomy, Ganga Hettiarachchi, stated in the press release, “It’s important to know how these safety levels are calculated,” adding “A person isn’t going to be eating those carrots for every meal 365 days a year. In the grand scheme, personally I wouldn’t worry much about the possibility of contaminants in carrots because I know I’m not really eating that much carrot.”

The researchers listed a variety of safeguards that urban gardeners can use to further reduce their toxic exposure. Washing vegetables with a special soap was the most successful method in the laboratory, but they also found that simply rinsing them in water also provided a degree of protection.

”Soap isn’t even really necessary if you wash all of the visible soil off with water in your kitchen,” Hettiarachchi said.

“The main point is to make sure you’re not intentionally eating soil,” she added.

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