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  QUESTION: Lead contamination in soil. 03 Aug 2004, New South Wales Australia

Dear Sir/Madam

I have recently become aware of potential problems from lead based paint from our 70-year-old weather board house. In particular I am concerned about possible lead contamination in our soil as I grow most of our own vegetables. This is a particular concern as in following permaculture principles I have extended vegetable growing to areas around the house. I have also recycled all plant material from ornamental beds around the house as compost. I have already tested some old paint using a test kit from the local hardware shop. I have several questions:

  1. How can I get my soil tested for lead contamination?
  2. What level of lead constitutes a problem?
  3. Should I stop composting all plant material from around the house and if so what is a safe disposal method for this material - I presume NOT the council green waste collection?
  4. I have read an article recommending not growing edible produce close to the house, but approximately how many metres constitutes "close"?
  5. Should I discard my compost and start again?
  6. I have two children aged 8 and 11 who have been fed garden produce for the past 4 years from this garden. I am terribly worried about this. Should I have them tested for lead? How do I go about this? I do not want to worry them unduly.
  7. I have fruit trees within a couple of metres of a shed and garage. Is fruit from these trees a danger?

I am concerned that in all the information I have read on permaculture that lead contamination of soil has never been mentioned.

ANSWER: Update 2010
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