How can Soil Contaminants Impact My Health?

Low levels of contaminants in soils do not usually present an immediate risk to human health. In most cases, the benefits of gardening and growing your own food far outweigh the risks from soil contaminants.

The easiest way to lower your risk is by reducing your exposure to soil contaminants

But some contaminants can build up in a person’s body over time and may lead to illness. Some contaminants can affect the way a child’s brain and body grows, so it is especially important for children and pregnant women to limit their exposure.

What is a soil contaminant?
A soil contaminant is any substance found in a garden’s soil or used in gardening practices that is hazardous to human health. Some of the main contaminants of concern in North Carolina community gardens include lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, zinc, copper, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and chromium.

Soil contaminants can have a variety of health impacts. Most commonly, they are found at low concentrations. This can lead to low level exposures and long-term effects that may take years to develop or contribute to long-term illnesses or impairments, especially with early life exposures.

To learn more about specific contaminants and their effects on human health, visit the ATSDR Tox Profiles, the NIH ToxTown website, and read our fact sheets below.


Garden soil contaminant fact sheets

Click on the icons below to view each fact sheet

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