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Lead contaminated soil and wildlife

 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I've got some heavily lead-contaminated areas, from my old  house's paint ending up in the soil.
Before I got the soil test results I hoped to grow some edible plants, now I plan to have a mix of annuals and  perennials  which will be attractive whilst feeding the wildlfe.
But should I, or will I poison everything?
From what Ive found out about lead, it has no effect on plants, but is very toxic to higher animals. 
It also seems that the further from the soil the plant mattter gets, the lower the toxicity eg: roots are dangerous, while pollen is much less so.
I can't find any information on lead's toxicity to insects and the potential (minute, since I haven't seen a bee in ages) that honey could be contaminated.
I plan to grow plants with edible seeds, nectar and pollen, but then I think about the leaf-eating insects and sparrows which will consume the inevitable self-sown lettuce...
This might read a bit over-the-top, but the test was over five times the maximum safe level. I definitely skewed the results toward 'lethal' by taking the majority of samples from around the dripline, but I'd like to base any action on the presumption that I'm dealing with  heavily lead-contaminated soil.
Does anyone have experience with this kind of thing? bear in mind, I'm not trying to get rid of the lead, I just don't want to make a great environment for the local birds and insects, then poison hem!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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lead is dangerous to people and to wildlife and not so wild life.

generally it is suggested that the soil be removed and replaced..however..i'm kinda funny i would probably just plant the lead laden soil with something non edible..like ornamental shrubs and plants..that probably eventually would clean it up..

there are people on here that know more about which plants help to clean up contaminants..however..be careful of what you eat in lead areas.

we have an area of target range..i make sure no plants get planted there that produce crops..for that reason..it is a non food zone on our property..we have a dirt hill that catches the rounds so they aren't really over a large area..but we are certain to make sure no food crops are grown there
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Yes, lead is dangerous to animals - I don't know about plants. They have banned the use of lead bullets in the range of endangered condors for this reason.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I changed the subject line a bit. To clarify: should I avoid growing flowering and seeding plants for birds and insects if my soil is lead contaminated?
I definately won't be growing edibles for humans.
 
John Rushton
Posts: 35
Location: Norman, OK
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Someone more well versed in biochemistry would be much better suited than I am to respond.  However, plants will accumulate lead and it is toxic to animals, so I would not recommend attempting to grow food for the wildlife in that soil.  Lead being a heavy metal, it cannot be broken down, only moved about.  If some plants are used to accumulate lead specifically in order to harvest and remove them from the property as a strategy for remediation (which is definitely something done by grassroots types in the know), you can count on those plants to send that lead up the food chain should animals eat them, and the results of bioaccumulation can be very difficult to get a handle on, with repercussions spreading through entire ecosystems in ways that are very hard to trace, often taking decades to spot and pin down.  In general, fruits and seeds are usually considered to be less likely to accumulate toxins, as plants tend to be a bit choosy about what they add to their reproductive parts, according to common lore, but special cases may well exist, so seek further knowledge on individual plants if you feel it is worth your while to explore further.  I'm not sure that knowledge even exists, btw, in formal science.  I wonder if anyone has any personal experiences with this.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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No direct experience, but I would be interested in hearing the answers to the OP question, as well.

In the Farm City: Urban Farming book by Novella Carpenter, I believe she mentions a fellow urban farmer who dealt with contaminated ground by growing figs on it.  Apparently the fig fruits did not contain an appreciable level of lead, so this seems to agree with John Rushton's comments above.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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The comments that fruit/seeds etc are considered 'safer' fit with my investigations.
I'm struggling to get information about birds and insects; research I've found mostly relates to humans and stock.


 
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