Want to Protect your children from arsenic in soil? Grow a Fern!
February 22, 2013
Do you have a deck, playset or garden beds made from pressure-treated wood sold before 2004? Then, the soil in your yard could be contaminated with arsenic, a known human carcinogen. Pressure-treated wood sold for home use prior to 2004 contained chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, which prevented insect damage and rot. It’s been banned since then because it was found that over time it released toxic arsenic into soil and even children’s hands as they played on the structures.
In gardens surrounded by pressure-treated wood, vegetables and fruits can absorb arsenic the leaches into the soil. If you eat plants grown in soil contaminated with arsenic, you and your kids may be eating arsenic, too.
To test your soil for arsenic, contact your local public health department. They can recommend a reputable test kit (oftentimes your local hardware store will carry them) or let you know if your city offers free kits.
If you find arsenic contamination, there’s a truly “green” solution to remove it! A plant, Pteris genus, actually pulls significant amounts of arsenic out of soil.
A researcher at the University of Florida found that the fern removes arsenic from contaminated soil at a rate more than 200-times any other plant tested. Through a process called phytoremediation, the fern pulls as much as 10-15 parts per million of arsenic from contaminated soil. The fern is patented by Edenspace and is marketed at nurseries around the country as edenfernTM.
To get the most out of the ferns, Edenspace recommends planting the ferns one foot apart. Arsenic is removed during the plant’s growing season and concentrated in the leaves and stems. The ferns will live for several seasons in areas that don’t get colder than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If the plants die, you can dispose of them in the trash (which only moves the arsenic to a landfill) or send them back to Edenspace, who will extract the arsenic for industrial purposes. DO NOT COMPOST THE PLANTS! The arsenic will contaminate the compost.