this AP dispatch appeared on dec 5 and i'm surporised no one noticed...
Spinach Used in Lead Contamination Fight
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 5, 2003
Filed at 2:28 a.m. ET
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Spinach gardens are being used as a weapon
here against lead contamination.
Unsafe levels of lead have been found in some homeowners' yards in the
city's Bayside neighborhood. The amount of lead varied widely from
yard to yard, and even within each yard.
Soil scientist Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh of the University of
Southern Maine planted three spinach gardens over the summer to see if
the plants could help clean up contaminated soil. Leafy plants like
spinach absorb lead from the soil as they grow.
``People were planting backyard gardens and hadn't even thought about
the fact that there were heavy metals in the soil that could be taken
up into the plants,'' Langley-Turnbaugh said.
The high levels are seen in part as a remnant of Bayside's industrial
past. Bayside is a mix of residential streets, businesses and
warehouses just off Interstate-295 on Portland's peninsula.
Langley-Turnbaugh and her students began testing the Bayside yards
last fall with the help of a small grant from the Environmental
In some places lead levels soared above 375 parts per million, the
guideline set by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Levels reached 7,000 parts per million in some cases.
``That's the highest you want to see in bare soil that's in a play
area,'' Langley-Turnbaugh said.
Preliminary results show that the contamination in one yard was cut in
half by the spinach garden.
Similar projects have been done in the laboratory or on industrial
sites, but this is one of the first to use plants to remediate lead
problems around homes.
The project will continue this year in the nearby Parkside
Lead is a central nervous system toxin that can cause learning
disabilities and developmental delays.