Cornell \Waste Management Institute
CWMI Home > Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities

Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities
A research and education partnership with urban gardeners.

Led by Cornell University, Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC, NYS Department of Health, and GreenThumb/NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.




Urban community gardens provide many benefits, yet garden soils can contain contaminants. The Healthy Soils project helps urban gardeners and other community members understand potential risks associated with soil contamination and implement healthy gardening practices. More information and project resources are listed below.


NEW Estimated Lead Exposures for a Population of Urban Community Gardeners
The Healthy Soils team recently published a study of lead exposure for a population of community gardeners and their household members. Urban soils can have elevated levels of lead because of human activities including some industries, past use of leaded gasoline and paint, building demolition and resuspension of dust and soil from nearby areas. Previously, we found that lead was at levels above health-based guidance values in some NYC community garden soils and vegetables and, rarely, in eggs. Until this study was completed, we had not known which sources of exposure were the greatest and whether commonly recommended healthy gardening practices were targeting these exposures appropriately. Overall, we found that total exposure to lead for the typical urban community gardener and household member was below health-based recommendations. However, some gardeners (about 10%) and even a higher percentage of visiting children (40%) were estimated to exceed those recommendations. While healthy gardening practices to reduce lead concentrations in raised beds or other growing areas (such as importing clean soil and amendments) are important and should be encouraged, these practices should be supplemented by other strategies to reduce exposures. (Click for more)

Urban Soil Contaminants and Soil Testing

Sources and Types of Contaminants • Collecting Garden Samples Understanding Soil Test Results

Healthy Gardening Practices

"What Gardeners Can Do", "Metals in Urban Garden Soils", and other resources

Healthy Soils Project Information and Research Manuscripts

Project information, research findings, and NYS Community Garden Map

Healthy Soils in the Media

Additional Resources for Urban Gardeners

About CWMI  Composting  Farm Waste Management  Sewage Sludge  Soil Quality  Health and Safety  Resources  Search  Home
Cornell Waste Management Institute © 2010
Soil and Crop Sciences
Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
    Soil and Crop Sciences