Absorption of arsenic by edible plants

Alfred Falk falk at arc.ab.ca
Tue Mar 21 16:08:51 EST 2000


bobsey at ix.netcom.com (Maria Luna and Mark Bornfeld) wrote in 
<38D78185.34AB85DA at ix.netcom.com>:

>My neighbor just erected a barricade fence made of pressure-treated
>wood, right next to my vegetable patch.  I know how toxic this wood is:
>just ask the people at Home Depot to cut it to size for you, and they'll
>tell you they can't do it due to health regulations. I also read
>somewhere that over time, the arsenic compound used to treat
>pressure-treated lumber can leach into the surrounding soil.
>
>My question is: What risk, if any,  is posed by eating vegetables/fruits
>planted near pressure-treated wood structures? I have planted tomatoes,
>strawberries, and arugula in the past, and had planned to plant a few
>raspberry bushes. Should I revise my plans?

Other posters have already made a number of comments, and you'll have
to judge for yourself who you believe.  This topic went round and
round in this newsgroup 5 or 6 years ago, when "Organic Gardening"
(?) published some thoroughly badly done tests.  Anyhow, a summary
of what I picked up here and elsewhere is:
1. The preservative in pressure-treated lumber is nasty stuff and
   you shouldn't burn it or use the sawdust on your garden.
2. The preservative isn't going to go very far in your soil (as
   noted in serveral current posts).
3. Arsenic compounds mostly end up in roots, and so you might wish to
   avoid root crops close to pressure-treated lumber.  (However,
   refer back to #2.)
4. A bigger worry is the long term disintegration of the wood.
   Eventually, you end up with arsenic contaminated soil, which must
   be disposed of carefully.  (And this could be 40 years later.)

Because of item #4, I have chosen to eschew further purchases of p-t wood
in my garden.  But I did't discard what I already have.

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