Contaminants In NYC's Community Gardens? Study Reveals New Findings

First Posted: Dec 08, 2015 01:19 PM EST

Community gardens provide great opportunities for recreational activities, social and gatherings along with gardening. However, these activities could increase the city's gardens' exposure to common urban soil contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to a new study.

In their study, the researchers collected soil samples from 20 community gardens in New York City, which were tested and analyzed for 23 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and black carbons. The researchers are shedding light on potential soil contaminants that can affect some of New York City community gardens.

"Community gardens are becoming increasingly popular because of their many benefits, but gardening in the city is not without some risk," Dr. Lydia Marquez-Bravo, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

While conducting their study, the researchers analyzed the extent and distribution of PAHs in community garden soils in NYC. They found median levels of PAH concentrations in soil which were similar to urban soil concentrations in New York State and northeastern U.S. It was also comparable to cities worldwide, which have an extensive history of industrialization.

The researchers found that the primary source of PAHs in the soils was the deposition of particles from air emissions. Since there are numerous interventions and policies in place on air emissions locally and at a state level, the researchers are hoping to see a reduction of PAHs in NYC's soil.

"We found that some garden soils have elevated levels of PAHs," Marquez-Bravo said. "However, our study also provides some evidence that beds used for growing vegetables may have lower levels of PAHs than non-cultivated areas in the gardens, suggesting that it might be possible to reduce PAH concentrations by gardening practices alone."

The findings of this study were published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

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