Community Gardens Made Safer From Invisible Toxic Lead


Louisville, KY Russell Community Garden, August, 2015

A group of young adults in the YouthBuild Louisville Program have been working this summer in Mayor Fischer’s SummerWorks Program. As part of that work, these young adults received training in “safe lead practices” through the volunteer instruction provided by LockUpLead. Following classroom training, the YouthBuild participants completed work to treat lead hazards on and around vacant properties and in the Russell Community Garden as a part of a pilot project sponsored by Louisville Metro Government’s Develop Louisville Department.

LockUpLead volunteered to participate as a way of fulfilling a commitment to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s violence reduction efforts, spearheaded by the new Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. LockUpLead has committed to partnering with Louisville city government to provide job training on new “green collar” skills to improve employment, as well as working on reduction of toxic lead exposure, which is strongly linked to increased crime rates. Children exposed to lead not only perform worse in school and suffer attention disorders, but also have a much higher incidence of aggressive and violent behavior disorders that emerge when they reach teen and early adult ages.

Develop Louisville funded the pilot project to demonstrate the practical application of the latest green technology for mitigating lead hazards. Using LockUpLead Neutralizer and LockUpLead for Lawn and Garden, the YouthBuild crew and volunteers from LockUpLead treated vacant properties and the soil around the perimeter of the properties as a demolition pre-treatment. Top EPA scientists have found LockUpLead to be more effective than any other technology tested in actually reacting with toxic lead paint on a molecular level to permanently change the characteristics of this #1 toxin in our environment into a form that is not bioavailable (able to be absorbed by the body). The result is a solution to this common urban gardening hazard that avoid excavating and dumping the nutrient rich soil as hazardous waste. Not only is the LockUpLead in-place treatment safer and easier to accomplish, it comes at a cost savings of 99% compared to soil disposal!

Plans are to treat the remaining gardening areas at the Russell Community Garden this Fall. Some areas of the garden were tested by garden manager Wayne Long (Jefferson County Cooperative Extension) and found to have elevated levels of lead, resulting in portions of the garden being closed off. As is typical in urban soils, lead distribution in the garden is highly uneven. It is hard to know what painted structures may have existed on the site in the past 150 years, and exactly where lead paint contamination may be. Even garden areas that fall below the EPA remediation standard of 400 parts-per-million are of concern, as it is now known that lead levels under this standard present hazards.

For gardening, the health concern is not the plant uptake of lead, but actually directly ingesting lead-contaminated soil. This happens when gardeners get contaminated soil on their hands, or produce is not adequately washed with a water and vinegar solution to remove lead-contaminated soil. Because it takes only millionths of a gram (the weight of a paperclip is about 1 gram) to poison a person, even tiny quantities of soil that are practically invisible are sufficient to poison.

By treating the garden soil with LockUpLead, the health risks from toxic lead compounds hidden in the soil from over a century of lead contamination will be mitigated at a cost of under $1 per square foot. EPA testing of LockUpLead has found that it outperforms other methods and dramatically lowers the bioavailability of toxic lead, by as much as 99.5%, even in soil! See the actual EPA results here.

A great result of this pilot project has been the work of the YouthBuild SummerWorks LockUpLead Crew. These young adults become true Community Heroes. By eliminating toxic lead health risks in the Russell Neighborhood (the Louisville neighborhood with the highest percentage of young children), the YouthBuild SummerWorks LockUpLead Crew created an environment where fewer children will suffer the permanent and irreversible brain development effects of lead poisoning. Even low lead exposure leads to IQ loss, ADHD, and violent and aggressive behavior disorders.

Watch this great 3-minute video interview with some of the YouthBuild SummerWorks LockUpLead Crew and contact us today to learn more about how you can do the same in your community.


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