How to Play Safely in the Soil

A few suggestions to dramatically reduce exposure to possible contaminants -- without breaking the bank

  • Kirsten J. Cox

This is a sidebar to the feature story, Pesticides from Old Farmland Leave Toxic Legacy

  • If you live in an at-risk neighborhood, do not garden in or till the onsite soil.
  • Build containers or raised garden beds that are at least 12 inches high, line them with an impermeable barrier and fill with soil that your local lawn store or gravel pit has verified as tested and "clean." (Unfortunately, there's nothing like an organic certification for soil.)
  • If you don't garden in raised beds/containers, avoid growing vegetables that can absorb toxic chemicals from the soil -- such as cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits -- or stick to ornamental plants.
  • Wash all vegetables before eating.
  • Keep exposed soil moist to prevent airborne dust.
  • When you're gardening, do not eat, smoke, drink or engage in other activities that might get soil in your mouth.
  • Wash exposed body surfaces as soon as possible after gardening.
  • Remove footwear before entering the house.
  • Store used gardening clothes outdoors.
  • If you decide to test your soil, the Washington Department of Ecology has good instructions for collecting samples at

Or you could just wear a hazmat suit and move around the yard in a lunar module.

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