Hi, I'm new to the forums. I was planning to plant some basil and other vegetables/herbs this coming spring in an empty flower bed that's against the house. However, after hearing about two different cases in which people who grew and ate their own produce died of cancer, I got to wondering if soil quality and potential toxins in the soil had a role to play. Are my concerns unfounded, or is it reasonable to worry about what might be in my soil?
I have never EVER heard of a link between eating foods you grow yourself and getting cancer. Frankly I'm more afraid of the food you buy at a grocery store giving you cancer than home grown food.
Fascinating though. What makes you think the food they ate caused the cancer? Cancer is so prevalent today that any number or hundred of things could have contributed to these people getting cancer. People who grow their own food are bound to get cancer sometimes just like people who only eat food from a fast food restaurant. I am not seeing the relationship. Do you have any other info to add?
If your house is older, you may not want to plant edible things alongside it. If your house was painted with lead paint, for example, there will be years worth of lead dust accumulated in that soil.
I have never heard of cancer from that cause, though. A woman's lifetime risk of developing cancer is approximately 1 in 3, and a man's is approximately 1 in 2, so we are obviously exposed to millions of other cancer risks!
If you are starting an edible garden from scratch you are going to want to perform a soil Ph test anyway to determine if the levels are correct for the types of plants that you are planning to grow. You should contact your local cooperative extension and see what they offer - the test kits are usually cheap or even free - and they will let you know what other tests they offer if you live in an urban setting and have concerns. The biggest issue in soils found in an urban area are lead, arsenic and petroleum products - there are soil tests for all of these.
There is still hope for "toxic" soils - adding organic materials (compost and mulch - which is something you will have to do anyway) decreases the amount of lead picked up by the plants since it attaches to the organic materials instead. You can plant “cleaning” plants in bad soil, like leafy greens and ferns, that will absorb large quantities of harmful chemicals. Discard these plants (don’t eat them or use them in your compost) as toxic waste. Or you can construct raised beds or just garden out of containers.
I’d love to know the source of the information regarding the people who died from eating homegrown foods - it’s a rather silly idea - like saying you got cancer from walking your dog or spending too much time standing next to a washing machine. Not saying that there isn’t some article out there saying that this is the case, sounds like something big growers would put out there to scare people.
How much older? My house is about thirty years old, and the paint on it is less than that, so I'm not sure if that would fall into the "older" margin we're talking about. But, generally, yes, that's the sort of thing I'm concerned about; if there was anything from the house, construction, etc. that might not be condusive to homegrown produce.
We have a 100 year old house with crazy "updates" done to it over the years (including asphalt shingles on 3 walls....) so we only plant flowers near the house. Our veggie garden is planted much further away.
No matter what the age, I don't think I'd really want to plant veggies around a house... but then I've always had the extra space so that it was optional...