Content

Lead and Cadmium in Plants

Summary

Many soils of the Berlin urban area are contaminated with lead, cadmium and other heavy metals. A contaminated plant may be stunted in its growth or not be able to grow at all. Ingesting these heavy metals through plant-based food may cause a variety of, sometimes serious, diseases both in animals and in humans.

Deposits from former industrial plants or landfills, the pollution of groundwater by contaminated wastewater and the introduction of fertilisers and composts containing heavy metals are considered to be causes for heavy metals in soils and plants. Near airports, or busy roads, heavy metals are introduced into the soil from the air in addition.

The contamination of plants with lead and cadmium was investigated between 1979 and 1990 as part of the Berlin Heavy Metal Programme. According to the results, allotment gardens in particular tend to be highly contaminated with heavy metals. Some of the food and fodder plants grown on agricultural land in Berlin also showed highly increased numbers.

The map illustrates which areas are particularly contaminated – from allotment gardens and house yards in Mitte to agricultural land on the periphery. The texts accompanying the map introduce you to measures intended to rectify and prevent soil pollution. Furthermore, you can read up on recommendations to take action in agriculture, horticulture – and also in private gardens.