Posted: Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:15 am Post subject: Garden Produce Not to Blame for Lead in Children
This is a letter in response to an article printed in The Sydney Morning Herald:
Your article on lead and inner-city vegetable gardens needs some further context ('Lead threat to children from home veggie patches', September 7-8).
Lead contamination of residential soil and dust from paint and former gasoline use has been recognised in Sydney for more than 20 years in studies and media stories published by NSW Health, my former research group and several other groups.
The critical end-game, however, is whether lead from the soil and dust enters the food chain and hence to people, where it is measured by lead in blood samples. It has been well documented for more than 40 years that lead does not easily transfer to vegetables except potentially leafy produce such as spinach and lettuce where the lead may be deposited from the air, as mentioned in the Herald article. Washing will reduce this risk.
We investigated 108 Sydney residences and the children living in them over a five-year period from 2001 to 2006 and found no evidence that lead from the diet contributed to lead in blood. This was peer-reviewed published data. Furthermore, the mean blood lead level in the children was 2.1 micrograms per decilitre, way below the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council's guidelines of 10 micrograms and less than half the new US reference level of 5 micrograms.
Garden produce is not the problem. There is concern over transfer of lead into the residence and children via fine particles from the soil. Exterior dust and old lead paint should be treated with much caution.
Brian Gulson, emeritus professor, Macquarie University, Sydney
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