Testing Soil for Lead

Monday, April 13, 2009
My vegetable garden has sprouted in neat little rows and it's exciting in a way I haven't experienced in gardening before, because these little sprouts will be food for our table! Having said that, I realized today that we have not had our soil tested for lead--a very important step before growing vegetables. I have raised beds, but may need to go another 6" deeper next year. Soil testing is also important if you plan to have backyard hens. Check out Chickens eating lead not sustainable,' an article written recently by Tamara Rubin for the Portland Tribune. It's important not to expose your backyard chickens to lead if their eggs are to be used as food for your family. I still have a little more research to do on this as Rubin doesn't provide sources to back up her claims, but I have to admit, I hadn't thought to test my soil before taking on vegetable gardening or chicken keeping. If our soil has high levels of lead contamination, which is a huge possibility as I often find lead paint chips in our soil around the house when I'm gardening, I'll have to keep their chicken ark away from the house where the contamination is, and will probably have to keep them cooped up at all times, which might be okay, since they will be in a movable coop, providing them continually with a fresh supply of grass and bugs as they are moved around the yard. I hadn't been informed of the risks of chicken keeping in urban areas due to lead contamination. I think I'll e-mail a few local nurseries and feed stores that sell chicks and recommend they inform customers to raise awareness on the serious risks of lead, not only to humans, but to chickens and homegrown vegetables!

Today was Landon's last day with the employer he's had for eight years. He had an early exit interview at 10AM, turned in his key, badge, company American Express card, received his severance check, and came home and started cleaning his office, where the chicks have been living in a plastic bin for three weeks now. Who knew how dusty a room could get in a few weeks' time from just four little chicks? It was amazing. A thick coating of dander (I know, gross!) was on everything. This experience has been all the assurance I need to see that raising birds indoors is NOT for me! We both washed down the whole room, which included every item and every book, and moved the chicks to the basement, where they'll stay until the end of the week, when I plan to drive to Corvallis to pick up a movable chicken ark for them. In the meantime, I must collect soil samples for lead testing! Here are the names of two local labs where you can get your soil tested for a small fee:
  • Wy’east Environmental Sciences, Inc., 2415 SE 11th Ave, Portland. 503-231-9320
  • A & L Western Agricultural Laboratories, 10220 SW Nimbus Ave, # K 9, Portland. 503-968-9225


Aviva said...

Hey Karli!

If your soil tests positive for lead, you'll also want to talk to your pediatrician about it and possibly get the kids tested since I'm sure they're out in the yard frequently playing, and lead exposure can have really bad effects on their developing brains. But your ped can monitor their blood levels if s/he knows that there's exposure happening.

Have fun with your chicks!!

tamara rubin said...

Hi there. Thanks for citing the article I wrote in the Tribune. I did want to make a correction though - I did provide sources for my claims (you said "Rubin doesn't provide sources to back up her claims") - there are sources both on my website and on links from my site to other sites with additional sources/ information. Please check it out http://www.mychildrenhaveleadpoisoning.com. The red Chickens link is still live on my home page today (4/16/09)

Thank you for taking the piece I wrote seriously and for recommending that others test their soil. That is the most important thing to do. I deal with lead poisoning every day (right now as a matter of fact as my two middle boys struggle to get to sleep) and my goal out of all of this is to get people to think and to have them make the inquiries for themselves - finding their own information and drawing conclusions/ coming up with strategies that work for them - strategies that will help prevent other children from being poisoned as my children have been.

If you have young children living with you the Community Energy Project or the Portland Development Commission might also be able to get your soil tested for free. Alternately I have had good luck with NetCompliance out of Vancouver, Washington.

The PDC also grants up to $10,000 per home for lead abatement and clean up of contaminated areas (in the home and in the yard) if their are young children present. They don't get enough applicants for this grant money and you can make up to 80% of the median income to qualify - so you don't have to be dead-broke to get this assistance (that will protect your children, your garden and your pets.)

Good Luck

Anyone can contact me directly any time with questions and I will point them in the directions of resources regarding lead poisoning and solutions.

Tamara Rubin
Portland Mother of 3 boys with Lead Poisoning.
p.s. I just joined twitter today as"tamararubin" and will be tweeting lead poisoning related thoughts and observations as they happen!

Beetles and Bees said...

Tamara, I can't think you enough for your comment! I appreciate it so much. This is a very important issue for me, but it can be overwhelming wading through all the information on this topic. I really wish that some of the feed stores that are marketing keeping chickens would also provide information for customers about potential risks. Thanks again for the information you provided. I plan to do some more blogging about this topic, so anything else you can add would be appreciated.

Tamara Rubin said...

Hi. I'm posting a link to your blog on my site today - also to some other recent blogs/ radio shows/ in put on the subject - plus a new story that I just got today (read Jennifer's letter on my stories or thought for the day page.) Please contact me when you have your children tested and make sure the doctor gives you a number (BLL#) not just "okay" - the biggest problem (right now) is that pediatricians are misinformed. They are not testing kids and if they do test kids they are misinterpreting the results. You can e-mail me directly at leadsafe@mac.com and I will give you my phone number and we can talk on the phone if you like. - Tamara

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