Analysis of Atlanta Residents' Knowledge Regarding Heavy Metal Exposures Associated with Urban Agriculture translation missing: zh.hyrax.visibility.toc_restricted.text

Balotin, Lauren (Spring 2019)

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Urban gardens are often recognized for the benefits they provide to communities. Gardens can improve nutrition and food security, as well as promote community development and social capital. Yet, urban soils are often at risk of heavy metal soil contamination because of their proximity to industrial sites and areas of high pollution. Contaminants such as lead, arsenic, and slag are particularly harmful in urban gardens and may be hazardous to one’s neurobehavioral-cognitive performance and overall health outcomes. Gardeners face increased exposure to these soil contaminants because of their regular contact with soil and consumption of produce grown in their gardens. However, previous studies have indicated that community gardeners are frequently unaware of the dangers heavy metal soil contamination poses or the potential remediation strategies that exist. In August of 2018, hazardous levels of heavy metal soil contamination were detected in West Atlanta gardens. This study seeks to better understand the awareness of Atlanta community members about the existence of soil contaminants in their gardens and their opinions on access to soil testing and remediation resources. Special attention was paid to differences in knowledge across racial groups and household incomes. The study was community-based and took place through surveys as well as follow-up interviews with several participants. It also included an outreach component through the distribution of educational materials and an opportunity to have soil tested at the Atlanta Science Festival. Survey participants indicated that they were concerned about the potential health effects of contaminants in soil, yet were unconcerned with produce in their gardens even if they had not previously had their soil tested. Findings also revealed that gardeners’ education on sources of contaminant exposure are often very low and that African American participants frequently lack confidence in recognizing negative health effects of heavy metals. Participants also provided insight into their generally low levels of knowledge surrounding methods of soil remediation. The information gained from this study can be used to guide outreach efforts by targeting the most vulnerable communities and efficiently improve the safety of urban gardeners, especially by improving the overall accessibility of soil testing and remediation.

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