Lead exposure a danger to Peoria County green thumbs

Lead exposure a danger to Peoria County green thumbs

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Peoria County has 20 times the national average of cases of lead poisoning. Peoria County has 20 times the national average of cases of lead poisoning.
PEORIA, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

The Peoria County Health Department says that Peoria County has over 20 times the number of lead poisoning cases than the national average. 

The reason may be right under your feet. 

With sunshine and blue skies comes a perfect excuse to be outdoors, planting and expanding gardens. But the dirt under your shovel could be making you or your kids sick.

"Just a little packet of sugar, less than that amount can mean lead poisoning for a child," explained Wil Hayes, Director of Environmental Health for the Peoria County Health Department. 

The University of Illinois Extension partnered with the Peoria County Health Department to make people aware of the danger of lead contamination.

"It's not as easy as I just go off into the bare spot of dirty by my house and till it out and put some plants in," said Hayes. "We want to do it safely. Not all dirt is dirt, is really what it breaks down to."

The reason for concern is not the soil itself, but what's in it - lead paint, peeled or chipped off of old homes. 

"It's intermittently an issue, depending on where the older homes were built prior to 1978," claimed Master Gardener Harry Elger. 

What you want to do, especially if you're planning on growing food, is to have your soil tested. 

Once you've got your soil test complete, or you're just worried there might be some kind of soil contamination, you build a raised bed, so that whatever you're planting is separated from the normal earth.

For those raised beds, don't use dirt from your yard; buy planting soil and fertilizer from the store, vermiculite, and compost. That lets you avoid pesky weeds, too.

Some more tips: don't have a garden too close to a storm drain or roads to avoid runoff. Wash your food outside before you bring it and store it, and make sure that if your kids are helping, both they and you wash off before going inside. 
 

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