LEAD NOT THE ONLY PROBLEM: Toys, paint, and jewelry can all contain lead. Additionally, residues from old pesticides, gardening chemicals, and treated lumber can contain other pollutants and stay in the soil for years. These residues often contain arsenic, posing a significant health hazard. In the past, arsenic could only be removed by digging up the soil itself and depositing it in a landfill.
ONE POTENTIAL POLLUTION SOLUTION: Planting ferns is a much less expensive and more convenient approach than digging up vast pieces of land. In 2004, about 2,800 edenfern plants were installed at 14 test sites in Washington, D.C. The plants removed about 9 parts of arsenic per million parts of soil across all the sites in the first year. Before, the soil held between 16 and 127 parts of arsenic per million parts of soil. The project's scope is being expanded to plant 10,000 ferns at up to 35 sites.
The American Geophysical Union and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report. This report has also been produced thanks to a generous grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.