Chicago Urban Ag Research Shows Crops, But Not Workers, Likely Safe from Lead Contamination

When a University of Illinois study showed elevated levels of lead in soils across Chicago, scientists undertook a project to examine how much of that lead was accumulated by urban agriculture crops. Their study of tomatoes grown in backyard gardens showed that they took up so little lead that they were likely safe to eat even when grown in highly lead-contaminated soil. Tests showed that the average adult male would have to consume almost 400 pounds of tomatoes a week to reach toxic lead levels, and even a 60-pound child could consume 80 pounds of tomatoes per week without reaching dangerous levels. However, the scientists warn that the practices of tillage and planting could easily expose the urban farmer or gardener to dangerous levels of dust. They recommend steps to minimize dust, such as heavy mulch, and recommend being careful to wash the fruit.