Heavy metals in urban soils: Best practices to stay safe


With all of the news about heavy metal air pollution from glass and industrial manufacturers in Portland, the OSU Extension Master Gardener program has been receiving inquiries from the public about the safety of food gardening in affected areas.  Several state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Health Authority have created a Cleaner Air Oregon website with useful content that includes what we know; what you can do; responses by relevant agencies; and how to stay informed.

Based on soil data collected by DEQ in late February, the Health Authority concluded that the levels of metals in soil around Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland and Uroboros Glass in North Portland are too low to harm the health of people in the surrounding community.

As a precaution, state agencies are advising that all urban gardeners perform soil tests for metals regardless of proximity to air pollution sources. 

Healthy Soils: Information about testing your yard or garden, which contains information about how to take soil tests for metals and how to interpret the results with reference to screening for background levels of metals in soil. It also includes DEQ's Residential Screening for Risk Based Concentrations and screening by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Technical briefing on exposure risks from garden soils with metal contamination

Resources for Healthy Urban Gardening in Oregon

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