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Research Shows Dangerous Levels Of Lead In New York City Soil

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gardening season may be over, but there could be lingering problems for those exposed to New York City's soil.

New research is revealing major lead concerns in city gardens.

For years, Anna Baskerville has been growing vegetables inside the 138th Street community garden in the south Bronx. It's organic, but she's learning it still may not be so safe.

(Credit: CBS2)

"It doesn't really surprise me because of where we live," she said. "There's so much pollution and other things here that something has to be done."

A dangerous level of lead has been found in soil across all of New York City.

Dr. Anna Paltseva helped contribute to a 10-year research study by Brooklyn College and others, testing 746 soil samples, including some from many city-run community gardens and parks. The study proved the majority of the samples posed "significant risks to human life and ecological systems."

"We found the soils are very different in different boroughs of New York. Specifically, for contaminants, they're concentrated in some areas where there used to be lots of industry or very high-traffic areas," Paltseva said.

The most dangerous samples were found in Brooklyn. Greenpoint came in first, followed by parts of Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Many gardeners fear if the city doesn't do something fast, gardens could be eliminated for safety reasons.

"I think it's possible they could take it away," one gardener said.

Dr. Paul Mankiewicz founded the Urban Soil Institute. The organization created a cake-layering approach to bury the lead at the El Jardin Del Paraiso Park in the East Village. He's urging the city to do this to more sites.

"It's a neurotoxin, basically. It will suppress the development of the neuro capacity and learning capacity of children and probably make us adults stupider too," he said.

The city says park soil is not the most commonly identified source of exposure to lead and there are no known cases of lead poisoning from it.

Experts say the best way to avoid lead exposure is to put mulch or sod down over soil.

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