Is your soil leaded? (Building a house, part 3)

Todd Medema
2 min readApr 24, 2021

One of the many things I’d never considered before building a house: lead contamination in soil.

Thanks to Flint, Michigan, everyone knows the problems of lead in water. Though less publicized, lead in soil also has health and safety concerns.

One potential solution to lead pollution in soil —

70+ years of lead paint and gasoline use has contaminated all soil near buildings and roadways — which is a lot of places. Worse, lead doesn’t biodegrade and will remaining in these soils for thousands of years.

Most plants can survive in leaded soil — but humans can’t. Common levels of lead contamination are enough to make plants that aren’t safe for children or pets to play in, let alone eat.

How can you find out if you have leaded soil?

  • If the location is near a road, or a structure built before 1978, there’s a high chance of contamination.
  • Many state universities have Agricultural laboratories that offer lead testing for a minimal cost.

What can you do if your soil is contaminated?

  • The best solution is bioremediation: removing the lead with plants (sunflowers are my favorite)
  • If you can’t wait a couple years before starting a garden or yard, you can use raised beds and import soil… but this is a temporary patch to a very long term problem
  • Penn State’s Agricultural lab also has tips to reduce the impact depending on your level of contamination

Hopefully your soil isn’t contaminated… but in all likelihood, it is. If you found this helpful, consider upvoting it — and stay tuned for more posts on what I’ve learned about building an eco-friendly house!

Todd Medema

Technology, Entrepreneurship and Design to make the planet a better place. Pittsburgh, PA.