You may have arsenic or lead in your soil. You can take Healthy Actions to reduce your risk when gardening.
Most plants don’t take up much arsenic or lead into their edible parts. Seeds and fruits will usually have lower levels of arsenic and lead than leaves, stems, and roots. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens will concentrate arsenic in their leaves. Root vegetables and tubers can have higher levels in the skin than the flesh. You should grow these types of vegetables in raised beds if you can.
Make sure you wash all produce well before eating, so you don’t eat dirt or dust stuck to the outside of your produce. Wash your hands well, too, so you don’t swallow dust and soil stuck to dirty hands.
- Grow produce in raised beds or containers. If you build raised beds, use untreated wood, plastic lumber, or concrete. Fill raised beds with 12 inches of clean soil.
- If you grow in the ground, prepare the soil first with plenty of compost or clean bagged soil. Doing so will lower average levels of arsenic and lead in the soil.
- Cover bare patches of dirt in your yard with a mulch like wood chips, gravel, or grass.
- Wear shoes and gloves while gardening. Take them off before you go inside.
- Dust yourself off outside and wash dirty clothes separate from other laundry.
- Wash your hands well. Use a scrub brush to clean dirt from under your fingernails.
- Scrub fruits and vegetables well with a brush. Peel root vegetables.
For more information, visit the Department of Ecology’s website.