Paint Chips in Garden

akamarcelSeptember 25, 2008

I rent a house that was recently repainted. The painters used some power washer to strip the paint of the house. Now the flower beds I used to grow Tomatoes in are filled with these paint chips.

Are chemicals in these chips going to leach into my tomatoes?

I've taken out the largest chunks, but there everywhere. Is there any easier way to clean up my soil then just trying to pick through the dirt?

Thanks in advance.

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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

yikes, there probably isn't any way to get the msds off the old paint. Unless the landlord remembers what brand it was painted w/ previously.

I think very large amounts of OM are in order, and top w/ lots of compost next year. Especially where you know you are going to be putting edibles.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 4:50PM
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There are lead test kits, which can be purchased at larger paint stores.

As a painter, I'm appalled at the slackiness of the painters who did your house. If you can get the name of the company, it wouldn't hurt to write them a letter (enclosing a few photos) and tell them about your concerns. I sometimes think that the managers don't know what the workers are doing on the jobsites, especially at rental properties.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 9:16PM
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How old is the house? Is it in the age of lead based paints? That, as you can tell by the posts is the concern. It is these idiots that make it hard on the painters who take pride in their work and do what is best for the customer, themselves, and the enviroment. If it is lead paint in the soil, the clean up would probably involve removing the soil, and sending it to a hazardous waste dump--nothing for the average renter to try undertaking---lead isn't anything to mess with. Is there any other place to grow your tomatoes? Best of luck!!!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 10:24PM
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If this house was built before about 1970 the paint most likely had lead in it, if it was built after that the paint did not have lead in it. While lead in paint is not a good thing to eat plants growing in soils with somewhat large levels of lead do not have any more lead than plants growing is soils with much lower levels of lead. Plants as a rule do not uptake that soil borne lead. Root crops should not be grown in that soil however since the lead could cling to them even after thorough washing.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 7:23AM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

I did some checking because I grow tomatoes next to an old barn. It seems that tomatoes are one of the vegetables that do not transfer lead to the fruits.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 7:13PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

While the 1970s are given as a time line for ending lead based paints, that does not mean that lead based paints were used up to that time in many cases. I remember reading on the label of oil based exterior paint in 1958 that it contained titanium oxide as the ingredient.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 9:55PM
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Lead based paint was banned in 1978. Therefore, there is a high probability that any house built before 1978 was painted with lead based paint.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 11:40PM
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I did some checking on lead safety levels online this spring, b/c one of the bags of leaves/pine needles I got from someone turned out to have paint chips from a wall in it. I didn't realize how many paint chips were there until I was mixing it in. The things I found led me to believe it wasn't too big an issue. Fruiting crops don't transfer lead to the fruits. I don't remember any numbers, but I know that if I did the math right, I would have to have a LOT more paint in there to cause dangerous levels in my vegetables. Root crops are more likely to uptake lead. Because in my garden, this was a layer added to the raised bed pretty close to the bottom, I wasn't worried about leafy vegetables uptaking lead since the roots don't go that far down, I don't remember the info on those.

This is my recollection from what I read several months ago. I would advise doing some research as well. I think I found info on the EPA website.

I would probably remove what you can, but I don't think you're doomed by any means.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 2:47PM
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Thanks for all the responses. This has been very helpful. I do have a couple of follow-up questions.

One poster stated "I think very large amounts of OM are needed". What is OM?

It seems that my only concern is that the chips contain lead. Does that mean there is NO concern about other chemicals if the chips do not contain lead?

Thanks again for all the respones. I appreciate the advice.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 11:52AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

OM = organic matter

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 3:02PM
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Aha, finally one that's right up my alley! [rubs palms together gleefully]

You might also be able to get a better lead test from the county ag extension office. Lead analysis is cheap. Take a composite sample from several areas and mix if you want to get an average.

Lead is going to be the primary concern. Titanium (the other white pigment) is non-toxic. BTW it's the white stuff you put on your face as a sunscreen. There are other metals that show up in paints, incl. cadmium, chromium etc. but rarely are they high enough to be a concern.

I would not grow veggies in soil that was over 250 to 500 ppm range for lead. Most places will have detectable background levels, so just because it shows up is not a reason for concern. The dose makes the poison!

And if those are lead paint chips, I suspect the painters violated some regs in addition to being estupido.

And if you end up removing soil, it is most likely not a Hazardous Waste as that would require very high amounts of leachable lead. I won't go into the gory details but it is most likely a Special Waste that could go to your local sanitary landfill. Hopefully it won't come to that.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 1:30PM
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