There are certainly many environmental benefits to the growing trend of urban farming, making urban farming a potential solution to the toll that agricultural production has on the environment. But this new trend might come with a serious health risk. 

tea, coffee, cereal, black tea, herb
Katelyn Doyle

Lead is frequently found in the soils in urban areas, the same soils that are used for urban farming. However, the concentration of lead found in foods grown in urban soils depends on several factors, including the type of plants grown and the bioavailability. Bioavailability is the amount of a contaminant that can be absorbed into your body. 

There are ways for urban gardeners to protect themselves from lead exposure. Root crops, like carrots, have closer contact with soil, so it is safer to avoid planting those in areas with high lead concentrations. Fruit-bearing plants, like peas, tend to have the lowest risk of contamination, so those could be grown more safely in soils with higher lead concentrations.

vegetable, pasture, carrot, tuber
Olivia Chadwick

If root crops are grown in riskier soils, peel them. Removing the leaves off of leafy crops also reduces the risk of exposure. Regardless of the type of plant, be sure to wash all produce thoroughly to be sure to remove any traces of soil that might be on them. 

Risks of soil exposure can also be reduced by adding sod and lime to soils. This is because soils with a pH higher than seven bind with lead, making the risk of absorption lower, and the bioavailability of the lead decreased. 

Urban gardens are a great trend to promote a sustainable future, but everything comes with a potential risk. As this trend continues, it is important for anyone interested in urban gardening to take precautions to keep themselves safe.