Partnering with Atlanta Gardeners to Measure Soil Contamination and Exposure  

Study Title: Community-Based Assessments of Soil Contamination and Childhood Exposure to Heavy Metals in Atlanta Urban Agriculture

Eri Saikawa, Emory College, Environmental Sciences

Sam Peters, School of Public Health, Environmental Health Sciences

Community Collaborators: Atlanta’s Mayor’s Office of Resilience, Historic Westside Gardens ATL Inc., Environmental Protection Agency

Growing food in urban areas is becoming more popular throughout the metro Atlanta area. Known benefits include: increased fruit and vegetable consumption, improved weight control, decreased chronic disease, and improved mental health. Heavy metal soil contamination (such as lead) may be found in urban sites used for agriculture; however, there is no publicly available data on the existing levels of heavy metal soil contamination in urban gardens or farms in greater Atlanta. Our study fills this critical void by measuring levels of heavy metal soil contamination in urban gardens and farms and investigating how consumption of contaminated soils or eating vegetables grown in these soils could affect human health. This interdisciplinary study will connect environmental exposure science with community-driven research and health education. Project partners include the Environmental Protection Administration, the City of Atlanta, Historic Westside Gardens ATL Inc., and community gardeners. Together, we hope to establish a long-term research collaboration with the urban agricultural community of Atlanta to better understand the exposures and health outcomes of these spaces.

How this study contributes to the exposome: Gardening and farming provide social, psychological, and dietary benefits. As such, this study will allow further exploration of the interaction between those exposures and soil contamination.

Dr. Eri Saikawa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Emory College.  Dr. Saikawa conducts interdisciplinary research on the environment. Her primary research questions are related to the source and the magnitude of emissions linked to air pollution, ozone depletion, and global warming; the impacts of these emissions on humans; and policies to reduce emissions.

Founded in 2009, the mission of Historic Westside Gardens is to foster community self-determination through building equitable networks around healthy, fresh, and affordable food.