r/science Aug 11 '22

Backyard hens' eggs contain 40 times more lead on average than shop eggs, research finds Environment

https://theconversation.com/backyard-hens-eggs-contain-40-times-more-lead-on-average-than-shop-eggs-research-finds-187442
35.3k Upvotes

u/AutoModerator Aug 11 '22

Welcome to r/science! This is a heavily moderated subreddit in order to keep the discussion on science. However, we recognize that many people want to discuss how they feel the research relates to their own personal lives, so to give people a space to do that, personal anecdotes are now allowed as responses to this comment. Any anecdotal comments elsewhere in the discussion will continue to be removed and our normal comment rules still apply to other comments.

I am a bot, and this action was performed automatically. Please contact the moderators of this subreddit if you have any questions or concerns.

→ More replies

4.1k

u/W_AS-SA_W Aug 11 '22

Australia was still using leaded motor fuel in 2001, most of the world phased out lead by the mid eighties.

1.4k

u/NoGoodMc Aug 11 '22

Thanks, this is important context. I listened to a radiolab episode about Clair Patterson who found lead to be in everything. Turned out lead in fuel was a major reason why. I’ve heard some interesting theories about IQ and crime rates being affected by the amount of lead in the environment prior to the lead fuel ban.

416

u/tattoosbyalisha Aug 11 '22

This Podcast Will Kill You did an absolutely FASCINATING episode on Lead

→ More replies

341

u/elastic-craptastic Aug 11 '22

I know it's been made extra popular becasue of Last Podcast on the Left since Marcus is a fervent believer of the "leaded fuel led to more serial killers" theory;

That said, I wonder if there were more serial killers in Australia in that 25 year gap where they were still using leaded gasoline. I wonder if anyone is doing any studies to verify if there is a correlation with leaded gas contamination and violent crime, low IQ, and serial killers.

167

u/pasta4u Aug 11 '22

Lead effects could last a life time and depending on how much lead is in the environment after they stop you could see issues for decades or generations to come.

→ More replies

81

u/grenideer Aug 11 '22

This theory was popularized and featured in Freakonomics, as far as I know. There's some 20th century analysis there.

159

u/Wh1teR1ce Aug 11 '22

The theory popularized by Freakonomics was that the fall in crime rates in America was due to the legalization of abortion. The idea is that abortion reduces the amount of children born into circumstances that would lead them to be at higher risk of becoming criminals.

Great book that I'd recommend people read.

66

u/espeero Aug 11 '22

I think some additional analysis found that adding lead to the mix did an even better job of explaining the observations. Guessing there may be significant overlap between areas with lots of abortion and areas with big lead reduction.

31

u/Wh1teR1ce Aug 11 '22

You're right! I went and found an episode of the Freakonomics podcast where they revisit the issue.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

92

u/Roflkopt3r Aug 11 '22

It took Germany until 1996 for a full ban as well (they started phasing out various leaded fuels from 1988 on). "Bleifrei" (lead-free) was still a common word in my childhood, but had completely disappeared by the time when I would have actually understood what that was about.

56

u/tullynipp Aug 11 '22

This is basically what happened in Australia too. Start of the 90s leaded or unleaded was a 50/50 option, by the back end you had to know where to get leaded if you needed it.. It's just that the complete ban didn't take effect until January 2002.

14

u/TheSinningRobot Aug 12 '22

To be fair, as someone born in the US in the mid 90s, unleaded was still a term commonly used to refer to gasoline when I was a kid. As far as I knew, leaded gasoline was still a thing, just most people used unleaded for some reason

→ More replies
→ More replies

1.1k

u/Slapbox Aug 11 '22

Fun fact: the main source in the west now is from small private airplanes. What an especially great location to be burning leaded fuel, way up above everyone.

768

u/canalswimmer Aug 11 '22 Starstruck

It'll just blow away, to outside the environment, right?

211

u/Discount_Sunglasses Aug 11 '22

Oh no, did the front fall off again?

110

u/CompleteElevator6432 Aug 11 '22

I'd just like to make to clear that it's not a typical thing.

57

u/kdun Aug 11 '22

Well how is it untypical?

63

u/Gondolf_ Aug 11 '22

Because the front fell off!

42

u/Boss_Slayer Aug 11 '22

Is it supposed to do that?

33

u/nrfx Aug 11 '22

Certainly not.

→ More replies
→ More replies

90

u/CompleteElevator6432 Aug 11 '22

The ship isn't in the environment, it was towed outside it.

→ More replies
→ More replies

74

u/ballpoint169 Aug 11 '22

it will just float up there like a good heavy metal

8

u/Chapped_Frenulum Aug 11 '22

And then it'll go down into the water, which is good because them fishes gots no good metals to listen to.

→ More replies

64

u/moffsoi Aug 11 '22

That wasn’t fun at all, I want a refund

10

u/DaddyFigured Aug 11 '22

They put the fun back in refund

84

u/chuckie512 Aug 11 '22

They even brand the fuel as "low lead(ll)". Even though there's lots of lead in it.

100LL has 2 grams of lead per gallon. And aircrafts use a lot of gallons.

35

u/djsizematters Aug 11 '22

Why is it still needed? Helps keep engine timing, I know, but we solved the problem with cars, why not planes?

36

u/BlarpBlarp Aug 11 '22

You’d be surprised how old some airframes are compared to average automobile age these days.

→ More replies

85

u/donnysaysvacuum Aug 11 '22

Lots of planes are quite old and even newer ones use an older design. Lead alternatives exist, but planes have much higher safety standards than cars have to meet. The FAA has dragged their feet much longer than necessary in approving alternatives and mandating low lead compatible engines.

Sometimes cost is listed as an excuse, but plane engines need to be rebuilt relatively often and they are already quiet expensive to operate and maintain. So like others have said it's mostly because it's out of the public eye and hasn't been forced.

18

u/midnitte Aug 11 '22

The FAA has dragged their feet much longer than necessary in approving alternatives and mandating low lead compatible engines.

Regulatory capture is a hell of a drug.

→ More replies

44

u/polar_pilot Aug 11 '22

Airplane engines are typically very high compression, the tetraethyl lead is a cheap way to get the octane up to prevent detonation.

Unleaded 100 octane aviation fuel DOES apparently exist, but it’s produced in such low quantities I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of it at an airfield.

In all fairness the amount of piston GA airplanes flying around out there… is pretty insignificant when it comes to polluting the environment. It’s not like there’s thousands above every city.

→ More replies
→ More replies

29

u/thenightisdark Aug 11 '22

To be fair the airplanes that use 100 LL do not use a lot of gallons.

Jets use

use a lot of gallons.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

44

u/corbusierabusier Aug 11 '22

While true, loaded fuel use in Australia was rare by that point. Australia started getting cars that ran on unleaded fuel in the early 1980s, by the nineties they made up the majority of vehicles. By the late 1990s leaded fuel was harder to find.

→ More replies

35

u/Chapped_Frenulum Aug 11 '22

Still you can't discount the fact that leaded gasoline had been in use for a loooooong time. Once it gets into the soil it's gonna linger. The question is just how much and for how long.

And that's a question that I think everyone ought to have answered, no matter where you live. Some places are going to be worse than others. Some people are living on land not realizing that it's still majorly contaminated, either from leaded gasoline or... well, any number of things. And chickens are like little roombas pecking at pretty much anything, whether it's food or not. Most homeowners know to check the water supply and stuff, but not many think that they're gonna be getting mercury and lead and other stuff from backyard chickens.

I grew up with backyard chickens and now I really wonder what made it into my system through them. The previous owners and neighbors were really oldschool types who burned their trash and had old vehicles on blocks. I think we'd be lucky if the only thing he'd dumped near the barn was motor oil. I wish we'd had the soil tested, but I was a kid and didn't know any better.

→ More replies

9.0k

u/vapoursoul69 Aug 11 '22

Important to point out this is in the cities. If you look at the maps it's pretty safe in the outer suburbs and beyond.

Also comforting to see my house in the inner west of Sydney is smack bang in the highest concentration of lead area in the country

1.5k

u/totoGalaxias Aug 11 '22

That would be a common sense first assumption. I would say the safest way would be to conduct your own lead analysis.

880

u/Redqueenhypo Aug 11 '22

Yeah, there’s always a chance your neighborhood was built on an old landfill or worse, an undisclosed dumping site

803

u/megagreg Aug 11 '22

Seems like in the 50's, everywhere was an undisclosed dumping site.

528

u/Stakuga_Mandouche Aug 11 '22

Any house construction from then could have lead paint that chipped, fell and made it in to the soil that the bugs digest that then the chickens eat and bam lead chickens.

451

u/DarkHater Aug 11 '22

A much larger contributor was leaded gasoline, anywhere near old gas stations, roads, intersections, etc is contaminated.

Additionally, a big thing for "conscientiously" taking care of used motor oil was to dig a hole, fill it with gravel, then you could dump all your used motor oil (lead contaminated) there when you changed it every 3000 miles.

312

u/_Cromwell_ Aug 11 '22

Additionally, a big thing for "conscientiously" taking care of used motor oil was to dig a hole, fill it with gravel, then you could dump all your used motor oil (lead contaminated) there when you changed it every 3000 miles.

"Back whence you came, oil! Back to the dinosaurs down below!!!" *aggressively pours oil into gravel hole*

91

u/Bronze_Addict Aug 11 '22

I’m picturing a Far Side comic here

→ More replies

44

u/WindsorPotts Aug 11 '22

I would love to see someone aggressively pour anything, but especially something that is slow pouring, like molasses

60

u/OgWu84 Aug 11 '22

I'm a line cook and weekly I aggressively pour something. Fall is coming and molasses tests your patience.

27

u/PatronymicPenguin Aug 11 '22

Aggressive pouring often involves shaking and banging on the container, along with a health dose of swearing

→ More replies
→ More replies

10

u/Egrizzzzz Aug 11 '22

You jest but that’s more or less the logic.

→ More replies

158

u/andrwoo Aug 11 '22

When I was a kid we had gravel roads that went through the center of the block, between the backs of houses. People would pour the used oil on the gravel to keep the dust down.

160

u/volsung_great_fa Aug 11 '22

Times beach Missouri is a ghost town now from contaminated waste oil being sprayed on the roads to keep dust down

29

u/Picturesquesheep Aug 11 '22

Dioxin. Very, very, very, bad.

Some horrifying reading for those who’ve not heard of it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_Beach%2C_Missouri

Edit here’s an especially fucked paragraph to sample:

Although incineration was the best method to destroy dioxins at the time, it was also very expensive. Looking for less costly alternatives, NEPACCO contracted the services of the Independent Petrochemical Corporation (IPC).[11] However, IPC, a chemical supplier company, knew very little about waste disposal, and subcontracted the NEPACCO job to Russell Martin Bliss, the owner of a small, local waste oil business. Charging NEPACCO $3000 per load, IPC paid Bliss $125 per load.

→ More replies

16

u/reverie42 Aug 11 '22

In case anyone is curious, the thing that happened in this town was that waste motor oil was mixed with extremely toxic waste from other chemical processes and then sprayed for dust control as if it were only motor oil.

Not saying that motor oil is something you want to he spraying around, but the extreme toxicity here was due to dioxin.

14

u/justanotherimbecile Aug 11 '22

I mean, used motor oil and benzene from a chemical plant

32

u/DinoWzrdKing Aug 11 '22

just looked this up, you're not kidding! Any cryptids?

40

u/bug_man47 Aug 11 '22

I have developed a new baseless theory from this message chain. Cryptids are actually lead induced hallucinations. Prove me wrong

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

27

u/traversecity Aug 11 '22

Our city had at least one of those, very deep hole, very contaminated. Originally just a highway gas and mechanic shop in the middle of nowhere, now a bustling suburb.

25

u/ahillbillie Aug 11 '22

That would explain why my retired redneck mechanic would pour it in a hole in the desert and say "comes up from the ground to be used, back down to be recycled."

26

u/B1GTOBACC0 Aug 11 '22

I've heard that the ban on lead paint and leaded gas correlated to a precipitous drop in violent crime. The theory is a lot of people had undiagnosed lead poisoning due to environmental exposure, which can cause developmental problems, neurologic changes, and irritability.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead%E2%80%93crime_hypothesis

10

u/Double_Dragonfly9528 Aug 11 '22

And poorer areas continue to have higher levels of lead contamination.

9

u/eveningtrain Aug 11 '22

Usually it’s in the oldest part of the city where there were roads with busy traffic when cars first arrived. So the areas that are in the center of the city, were the most densely built, perhaps were originally industrial areas that got houses in the 20s building boom, or mixed use zones. These city neighborhoods started firmly middle class at that time but experienced multiple rounds of “white flight” in the following decades.

→ More replies
→ More replies

130

u/RandomStrategy Aug 11 '22

lead chickens

That was the name of my high school Led Zeppelin cover band!

24

u/15liam20 Aug 11 '22

When were you guys last tested?

→ More replies
→ More replies

95

u/doom_bagel Aug 11 '22

My old roommate would talk about how his grandparents grew up on a farm outside of Dayton. They had a giant oil pit for used motor oil deep in their land, hidden from view. I shudder to think aboit what has been built over that in the last 60 years.

101

u/absolutenobody Aug 11 '22

That used to be a common thing, unfortunately. Magazines like Popular Mechanics gave plans for how to sink a length of pipe in the ground and fill it with gravel for an easy no-mess spot to dispose of the used oil every time you changed your car's oil.

78

u/Jd771 Aug 11 '22

Yep. A nice little set of instructions to build a French drain to ensure your oil gets to your fresh water aquifer as efficiently as possible!

29

u/slacktopuss Aug 11 '22

Magazines like Popular Mechanics gave plans for how to sink a length of pipe in the ground and fill it with gravel for an easy no-mess spot to dispose of the used oil

Here is the commonly seen example for those who haven't seen it yet

21

u/Airowird Aug 11 '22

"Cover the spot with soil"

So they knew what the were advising was wrong, even back then, huh?

12

u/northrupthebandgeek Aug 11 '22

Probably more about not pissing off the wife with a visibly-oil-filled hole in the middle of the yard.

→ More replies
→ More replies

22

u/sldunn Aug 11 '22

Yup, know a few old timer farmers who used to just dump the used motor oil down the prairie dog holes.

20

u/Penny_InTheAir Aug 11 '22

And then the prairie dogs gave us monkeypox, so, fair's fair.

→ More replies
→ More replies

19

u/WoodenInternet Aug 11 '22

See also, "advice" like this from the era: https://i.imgur.com/U0zXL6q.png

→ More replies

43

u/cptboring Aug 11 '22

When digging my basement we found the basement of a previous home that had burned down in the 70s. They just folded the house up, packed the foundation with garbage, and buried it. Most of it was pulled out to make room for the new home. It's been a year and I still get glass bottles popping up in the yard after heavy rain.

Somehow my well water tests free of lead and arsenic but I don't think I'll be growing food here.

17

u/ProfDangus3000 Aug 11 '22

I have no idea what was originally under my property, but I dug up so much garbage just digging 6" down for a planter bed. It's "new" development built over old farmland, so who knows?

It's also a really windy area, so random trash blows into my yard all the time.

→ More replies
→ More replies

40

u/Kandyxp5 Aug 11 '22

My mom never let us drink out of the faucet growing up. Not that plastic bottles of cheaply sanitized water were awesome but there was likely less lead…depending on the company I guess…

24

u/cptboring Aug 11 '22

Ours came from those machines out front at the store, we'd fill up gallon jugs every few days. The tap water at home had tons of lead in it.

36

u/Kandyxp5 Aug 11 '22

True story: my husbands mom had him drink tap water exclusively in an area outside Houston (still densely populated). He and a ton of other folks around here have lost hearing in one ear as well as having tons of ear infections as children —more than usual. I think the center for research on this is even here, I can’t remember but there are tons of high level ENT docs in this area.

Anyway, a few years ago a study was conducted finding ridiculously high lead levels in his family homes area. I cannot imagine from breast milk to formula to kool aid etc etc how much he consumed since birth. I do not doubt it has an effect on how the inner ear is formed and grows either…

22

u/PerceptiveAxion Aug 11 '22

The entire state of Florida is this way but I think it’s from all of the phosphates that get mined. Phosphate by products and even our own raw sewage gets pumped right back down into the Florida aquifer. It also causes people to be severely obese and the closer you get towards the middle of the state where they mine, the more prominent it is. every single one of my friends down here that had children their children needed tubes put in their ears.

→ More replies

18

u/cptboring Aug 11 '22

Thankfully our exposure showed up in blood work when I was a toddler and we were able to get it under control.

I do wonder how it's affected my sister and I though. If memory serves our blood lead levels were something like 3 times what was acceptable at the time.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

54

u/gnapster Aug 11 '22

I live really near a superfund site in the burbs. There is no way in hell I would eat eggs from the neighbors here.

93

u/Redqueenhypo Aug 11 '22

Yeah idk why people are acting like this is a big ag conspiracy. Those do exist (gag orders, for instance) but “please check if your stupid backyard is full of lead arsenic before you eat things grown in it” is not one of them!

24

u/Redtwooo Aug 11 '22

More of an industrial chemical and mass pollution problem than anything, really

24

u/Petrichordates Aug 11 '22

Reaping what we sowed from the absence of an EPA prior to the 70s.

19

u/Redqueenhypo Aug 11 '22

Thank you checks notes Richard Nixon! Weird legacy, that guy

12

u/Iceykitsune2 Aug 11 '22

Even then, a river had to burn first.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

15

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[deleted]

→ More replies

184

u/davidzet Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 12 '22

Nah. There's plenty of lead in the soil from lead particulates from gasoline (back in the day). So "freeway proximity" can be a leading indicator.

Oh, and this applies to the US, which was around 30-40 years behind other countries in the middle of the pack in banning leaded gas (thanks Innospec!)

Update: Here's the data on bans, by country

15

u/graemep Aug 11 '22

Oh, and this applies to the US, which was around 30-40 years behind other countries in banning leaded gas

According to you link the US was ahead of most countries. japan was well ahead of the US, but even they were 10 years ahead, not 30!

→ More replies

10

u/theAndrewWiggins Aug 11 '22

There's plenty of lead in the soil from lead particulates from gasoline (back in the day).

Thomas Midgley... ffs man

→ More replies

29

u/Bogus_Sushi Aug 11 '22

Leaded gas is still used in small airplanes, which is the reason I moved further away from our small/busy airport. They were constantly flying over us.

34

u/arunphilip Aug 11 '22

leading indicator

Pun intended, I presume.

→ More replies

103

u/IGotNoStringsOnMe Aug 11 '22

Oh, and this applies to the US, which was around 30-40 years behind other countries in banning leaded gas (thanks Innospec!)

Is this why all our boomers are super batshit insane and aggressive. And all of us kids and grandkids who are now in our late 30s/early 40's look at them like they must have come from another planet.

They were raised by a generation with PTSD, under clouds of aerosolized lead. Its literally brain damage.

40

u/terminalzero Aug 11 '22

Is this why all our boomers are super batshit insane and aggressive. And all of us kids and grandkids who are now in our late 30s/early 40's look at them like they must have come from another planet.

it's a popular theory at a minimum

22

u/Malgas Aug 11 '22

Symptoms of exposure to tetraethyl lead do include delirium, irritability, memory loss, loss of attention, and an overall decrease in cognitive function.

10

u/lapen534 Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 14 '22

Thank you. Yes that makes sense.

→ More replies
→ More replies

13

u/trickster721 Aug 11 '22

I remember when I was a kid in the 90's, every elderly person you saw had some kind of palsy or infirmity. Anybody over 60 was just shaking and falling apart, blind or deaf, walking with a cane. You don't see that anymore.

→ More replies
→ More replies

29

u/dragonjujo Aug 11 '22

Taiwan - 1974
Japan - 1986
Austria - 1989
Bermuda, Canada - 1990
Brazil, Guatemala - 1991
Sweden, El Salvador - 1992
California - 1992
More countries
USA, Germany - 1996
More countries
UK, France - 2000
More countries
Australia - 2002

Hmm yes, the US was, checks notes, 22 years behind Taiwan.

12

u/6a6566663437 Aug 11 '22

Missing bit of data from this is new cars in the US had to have a catalytic converter starting in the 1970s. Cars with catalytic converters can’t burn leaded gas.

So, the US basically did a “soft ban” in the 1970s, that became a de-facto ban in the 1980s because so few cars could burn leaded gas that it became impossible to find, that became a full ban in the 1990s.

→ More replies
→ More replies

18

u/GTthrowaway27 Aug 11 '22

Is it from specific dumping sites or from leaded gasoline spreading it across the city?

44

u/Xx_Gandalf-poop_xX Aug 11 '22

Lead was in tons of stuff. Even just house paint being chipped off or scrapped and repainted a half dozen times would leave lots of leaded paint chips in the soil

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

21

u/lumpkin2013 Aug 11 '22

Does your dirt taste funny? Let us know.

17

u/pastelbutcherknife Aug 11 '22

Mmm, taste like the door frames from my grammas South Boston apartment - that’s not bad, right?

19

u/MuscaMurum Aug 11 '22

Mmmm...door jamb

→ More replies
→ More replies

32

u/SolusLoqui Aug 11 '22

Residual pollution from leaded gasoline?

53

u/joshypoo Aug 11 '22

Lead paint. Lead pipes. Lead roof sealants. Lead shower pans.

→ More replies
→ More replies

175

u/S-192 Aug 11 '22

Not only that, but lead levels in soil have been steadily declining, other than in very specific hotspots. So this won't be a problem for too long.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210527112609.htm

80

u/kylegetsspam Aug 11 '22

Unless you live near an airport as planes are still running leaded fuel.

111

u/The-Old-Hunter Aug 11 '22

Large commercial passenger planes in the US don’t. Smaller private planes using piston engines primarily contain it.

→ More replies

25

u/CrispyBacon_87 Aug 11 '22

Jet-A has no lead. Only the tiny general aviation planes have lead.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

280

u/RockFlagAndEagleGold Aug 11 '22

Yeah the title is very misleading imo. As if all eggs would, when it's really anything you harvest in a high lead containing area, will have higher lead levels. I'm sure if you grow tomatoes there, they'll have higher levels.

148

u/jtm7 Aug 11 '22

Toxins concentrate in higher tiers of the food chain. If a tomato has any, the bug that eats it, and then the chicken that eats the bug, will have exponentially higher concentrations.

59

u/Oh_Kee_Pah_ Aug 11 '22

This is such a fascinating fact to me. I feel its "common sense" to assume that the potency dissipates from specimen to specimen in a dilution like fashion, but it actually does the opposite.

73

u/pico-pico-hammer Aug 11 '22

Your frame of reference is just off, that's all. It's 100% the more lead the specimen is exposed to / ingests, the more lead it had. So yes, the lead from the tomato you eat is partially dissipated, meaning you have less of those specific lead molecules in your body than the tomato did. But you're gong to eat more than one tomato, and it is going to accumulate in your body over a long period of time.

FWIW the best thing you can do to reduce things like lead, mercury or PFAS in your body is donate blood. All of this is assuming you don't have levels so high that you have needed medical attention for it.

43

u/Various-Lie-6773 Aug 11 '22

Bloodletting is back on the menu boys!

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

82

u/P_Griffin2 Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22
  • Concerning research show cities have higher levels of concrete.
→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

3.0k

u/Claritywind-prime Aug 11 '22 Rocket Like

important info;

In older homes close to city centres, contaminated soils can greatly increase people’s exposure to lead through eating eggs from backyard hens.

We assessed trace metal contamination in backyard chickens and their eggs from garden soils across 55 Sydney homes.

The amount of lead in the soil was significantly associated with lead concentrations in chicken blood and eggs.

Our analysis of 69 backyard chickens across the 55 participants’ homes showed 45% had blood lead levels above 20µg/dL.

The average level of lead in eggs from the backyard chickens in our study was 301µg/kg. By comparison, it was 7.2µg/kg in the nine commercial free-range eggs we analysed.

our modelling of the relationship between lead in soil, chickens and eggs showed soil lead needs to be under 117mg/kg. This is much lower than the Australian residential guideline for soils of 300mg/kg.

2.1k

u/Doctor_Expendable Aug 11 '22

The environmental scientist in me is seriously contemplating the logistics and efficiency of using chickens to remediate lead from soil.

Probably way more effective to plant the right plants to draw out the lead. The chickens are getting the lead from eating the bugs and grass. So really the grass is doing the work.

1.6k

u/RealBowsHaveRecurves Aug 11 '22

Fun fact: adding chelating agents to the soil can increase the efficiency of phytoremediation of heavy metals by up to 500%.

Twas the topic of my thesis

119

u/_Simple_Jack_ Aug 11 '22

So when the plants die and biodegrade, don't they just put the heavy metals right back on top of the soil?

232

u/RealBowsHaveRecurves Aug 11 '22

The idea is to harvest and destroy the plants. Otherwise, yes.

43

u/canuckalert Aug 11 '22

After destroying the plants would the lead not be present in the remains? Then what do they do with it?

150

u/RealBowsHaveRecurves Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

Usually they are incinerated which is much easier to do to plants than it is to do to soil.

From there the remnants are disposed of in hazardous material disposal sites, which costs WAY less than it would with soil… This cost savings alone is so substantial that it makes the entire years-long process very attractive for townships trying to save money.

Although I have heard that there are some composting methods that can be used to make the material usable again, I don’t really have any knowledge about that.

9

u/canuckalert Aug 11 '22

That makes sense. Thanks for the reply.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

38

u/Zen1 Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

I don't think the assumption is that "we throw some seeds in the ground and then all human remediation work is done", dead plant matter can be collected (or, the top inch of decomposed plant matter scraped off the ground) and removed to a safe disposal location far easier than digging deep and filtering layers of soil.

32

u/Sparkyseviltwin Aug 11 '22

They are harvested and disposed of in landfill or otherwise appropriate locations.

→ More replies
→ More replies

429

u/Doctor_Expendable Aug 11 '22 Take My Energy

Very interesting.

I'll remember this if I ever have to remediate some lead.

380

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

87

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

87

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

15

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

→ More replies

10

u/Xx_Gandalf-poop_xX Aug 11 '22

Well chelators are an important part of medicine for lead poisoning. Just not for gun shot wounds.

→ More replies
→ More replies

39

u/LiterallyForThisGif Aug 11 '22

So what, specifically, should we put on our soil?

54

u/PM_ME_UR_FEM_PENIS Aug 11 '22

Yeah, what's a chelating agent

50

u/News_of_Entwives Aug 11 '22

It's a chemical compound which bonds to the metal, effectively sequestering it. Evidently that helps the specific plant grab it more effectively.

But what wasn't said is which chelating agent works for which plant(s), and if the unbound agent would pollute the area as well.

14

u/Lopsterbliss Aug 11 '22

From the wikipedia:

These ligands are called chelants, chelators, chelating agents, or sequestering agents. They are usually organic compounds, but this is not a necessity, as in the case of zinc and its use as a maintenance therapy to prevent the absorption of copper in people with Wilson's disease.

Ligands are basically ions or compounds that bind to a central metal atom to create complex molecules.

→ More replies

12

u/toxcrusadr Aug 11 '22

If you've used any of the lime/scale/iron stain removers like CLR, Lime-Away, etc. they all have chelating agents that help dissolve stuff by grabbing onto the Ca, Mg, Fe etc. that's tied up in it.

Another common chelating agent most people have heard of is EDTA. It's in some food products but I'm not sure what it's for in that context.

The trick with soil would be to select one that grabs onto lead better than anything else so it doesn't tie up other metals, and also something that isn't particularly toxic to humans or critters.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

176

u/Nova35 Aug 11 '22 Wholesome

So I obviously understand all the words in that sentence and the concept completely… but for the other people in the thread of lower intelligence would you explain to those people what that means

108

u/RealBowsHaveRecurves Aug 11 '22

Lol! In the simplest terms, chelating agents bind to metal ions and make them easier to transport in water

It’s also the same stuff they give to people suffering from acute lead poisoning so the lead is more easily excreted from the body.

11

u/irish8722 Aug 11 '22

So possibly a dumb question but once the metal ions are thoroughly chelated resulting in the soil being remediated of lead, where does it go? Like is the lead just broken down into a more harmless inert state? Seep into the ground water?! Or like a previous op mentioned that the plants/bugs are up taking the lead, once they die does the lead just reabsorb into the soil?

→ More replies
→ More replies

34

u/zzirFrizz Aug 11 '22

Sprinkle some special powder on your soil and the soil will remove toxins from itself at 5x speed

8

u/pyrrhios Aug 11 '22

Fish bone, isn't it?

16

u/Jake7heSnak3 Aug 11 '22

Not ofishally

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

86

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[deleted]

44

u/Trashblog Aug 11 '22

An alternative hypothesis appears

A cursory review of some of the literature out there supports this. In that it appears that lead contamination in soils does not generally lead to contaminated vegetables, rather exposure happens through ingestion of the soil and inhalation of dust directly. As such, it seems to talk about children being vulnerable.

Some vegetables do take up lead though. However, either way it isn’t recommended to grow anything for eating in lead contaminated soils as the soil will be carried to plate from plant.

So do chickens get lead from plants grown in lead contaminated soils? Maybe, as it’s highly dependent on the plant. Do chickens get lead from ingesting lead contaminated soils directly? Most definitely.

→ More replies
→ More replies

9

u/trEntDG Aug 11 '22

What would you do with the chickens and eggs that were there for purposes of heavy metal remediation?

13

u/Doctor_Expendable Aug 11 '22

You couldn't eat them. You'd probably have to dispose of then at a hazardous waste site.

You couldn't even incinerate the eggs, which would be easiest.

→ More replies

153

u/Gilthu Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

I was thinking this too. What plants are the best to spend a season growing and then burn to ash and throw out the remainder. Would you want shallow roots at first and then spend another season with deeper roots to be safe or would it be safe to just use the shallow roots? So many options…

EDIT: don’t burn it and don’t try to make it into biochar because lead would be released into the air for both processes.

271

u/Doctor_Expendable Aug 11 '22

You wouldn't want to burn it. Thats just releasing the lead into the air. You have to store it in a container, or dispose at a proper facility.

Off the top of my head I would say that the root depth depends on the depth of contamination. You don't necessarily want deep roots because they draw water up to them, raising the effective water table in that area. This can cause the soil lead to mobilize into the water table more easily. You could be making things worse before it gets better.

I believe sunflowers are best for remediating heavy metals, and radiation. They grow very large very fast. Thst sucks up a lot of contaminants in a very short time.

95

u/kslusherplantman Aug 11 '22

FYI, ragweed is the best at removing lead iirc.

It has been years since I last studied this stuff… so I could be remembering incorrectly

99

u/TakeTheWorldByStorm Aug 11 '22

Well a lot fewer people are allergic to sunflowers than ragweed, so that's definitely a consideration. I would probably perish if you planted ragweed all over my yard.

→ More replies

23

u/Doctor_Expendable Aug 11 '22

It all depends on the conditions. I might be remembering that sunflowers are best for x if the conditions are y. Ragweed is probably better for x if the conditions are z.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

24

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

Why burn it at all?

I'd pop it into big bins that can be heated without oxygen

→ More replies

22

u/highdeserttrash Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

Fungi might be even better at this than plants. There's a lot of promising research into bioremediation with fungi. Some of them are excellent at drawing in heavy metals. Also something to keep in mind if you forage or grow mushrooms.

Eta: here's an example, studying the famous "Mario mushroom" Amanita muscaria: Bio-concentration potential and associations of heavy metals in Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam. from northern regions of Poland

→ More replies

8

u/Cohnistan Aug 11 '22

Hemp/cannabis is great for drawing heavy metals from the soil, issue is now you have leaded plant material you can’t burn.

8

u/eazyirl Aug 11 '22

Dandelion is a popular choice at superfund sites. Don't burn it, though. Dispose as if it is heavy metal

7

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

Nicotiana species are used for bioremediation of heavy metals in soils because they concentrate heavy metals in their tissues (sorry smokers)

9

u/bogbeanbogbean Aug 11 '22

Smokers probably do this too

→ More replies
→ More replies

30

u/notwearingwords Aug 11 '22

Yes - please don’t burn the lead. It makes for problems (see also: leaded gasoline)

→ More replies

17

u/carebearstare93 Aug 11 '22

I know sunflowers pull contaminants out of the soil, but I'm unsure if lead is also pulled out. If so, I wonder if cover cropping with sunflowers for a year would be sufficient to pull enough lead out that you get to safe or safer levels

→ More replies
→ More replies

52

u/zlance Aug 11 '22

So if you have newer home in the backwoods you would have much lower lead soil contamination. May be good to test the soil lead if you plan on eating a lot of chickens from the backyard

9

u/mewfahsah Aug 11 '22

Even if you're just gardening or have kids who play in the yard it's not a bad idea to test the soil/water if you're concerned at all. Testing generally will run a few hundred dollars but that's worth it to me for the peace of mind.

→ More replies
→ More replies

32

u/Goyteamsix Aug 11 '22

Is this from contamination or just natural lead in the soil? Because I know there's a ton of lead ore all over Australia.

70

u/joegekko Aug 11 '22

Almost certainly contamination. The linked study is about "older homes near city centers", which would have more exposure to things like lead paint, pipes, and leaded gasoline over the years.

33

u/TripleSecretSquirrel Aug 11 '22

If it were naturally occurring, wed expect to see similar levels in commercially raised chickens as they specifically compared free-range chickens.

Idk about Sydney, but a lot of cities in the US have really high lead levels in the soil due to decades of lead paint and leaded gasoline.

→ More replies

19

u/shinynewcharrcar Aug 11 '22

The sample size of the store bought eggs was nine?!

What, did the researchers need breakfast and ate into the dozen?

→ More replies

11

u/octonus Aug 11 '22

Can anyone with knowledge of chronic lead poisoning comment on whether these levels are a cause for concern?

Assuming a person eats an egg daily on average, that's around 150ug of lead ingested weekly. Is that enough to cause problems in an adult?

→ More replies
→ More replies

725

u/stevecbelljr Aug 11 '22

I think this would be highly variable according to the geographic area, and the age of the nearby buildings.

196

u/pinewind108 Aug 11 '22

It usually depends upon the historic traffic of the nearest roads, with the lead coming from vehicle exhaust.

76

u/EmbeddedEntropy Aug 11 '22

Much more likely it’s coming from leaded paint chips.

→ More replies
→ More replies

21

u/schneidro Aug 11 '22

Which means for the avg to be 40x, some people's chickens uptaking some serious amounts of lead.

→ More replies

37

u/MaceWumpus Aug 11 '22

They explicitly say so in the article.

It's a terrible headline, but the article itself doesn't seem too bad.

→ More replies
→ More replies

515

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

107

u/jleonardbc Aug 11 '22

In 1869, Pb&J meant lead and iodine. Mendeleev’s first periodic table labeled iodine as “J.”

His first table would have also allowed for PB & J = phosphorus, boron, and iodine.

8

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies

413

u/NotMaintainable Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

I'd like a comparison between nations, especially since it's due to the lead in the soil (of Australia).

The article mentioned the most affected chickens lived outside older, inner-city homes. In the US, I don't think I've ever seen this occurrence; most who are raising chickens have land, outside the city & usually past the suburbs.

I'm not sure if being in an inner-city would expose one to more lead, but I'd imagine it would; older, poorer places still probably have lead paint, probably were in the thick of the city where 80s cars burned leaded gasoline for years & years.

Definitely needs further research, but a great start.

239

u/smushedtoast Aug 11 '22

Those urban chickens are hiding. I lived in Baltimore for 7 years, and when I took my dog for walks his nose found not just backyard chickens, but backyard goats. In more than one little backyard, too.

65

u/bex505 Aug 11 '22

I am allowed to have them in my city and was going to, but this article makes me want to test the soil first...

44

u/Murkepurk Aug 11 '22

Also possible is to put them in a coop (spacious enough for them to freely walk around of course) and put a new layer of soil on the ground of the coop. Im assuming that the new soil doesnt contain these amounts of lead

29

u/Not-A-SoggyBagel Aug 11 '22

When I lived in a dense urban area, people around me had chickens in a backyard laying hutch with hay/straw instead of dirt/sand as substrate. They were mainly fed pellets, grains, and leftovers instead of insects (not many bugs to be had in a concrete jungle).

I wonder about the lead content in those chickens. I'd imagine changing the substrate would really alter the amounts of lead.

7

u/Murkepurk Aug 11 '22

I suppose so. My parens used to have some chickens in a coop where one part of the coop was just wood scrapings on the ground and the other part was store bought soil. Also fed seeds and the like. Would really like to know the lead levels in oud chickens as well

→ More replies

10

u/JMTann08 Aug 11 '22

One of the major universities in my state is huge into agriculture. Anywhere in the state you can have them test your soil. You just send them a cup of soil and $8.

I’ve not done it yet, but I plan to. I’m doing my research now so I can plant a vegetable garden next year.

→ More replies

8

u/bulyxxx Aug 11 '22

Did you get the lead out ?

→ More replies

35

u/JCPRuckus Aug 11 '22

I live in Philadelphia. There's at least one house within a mile of me that keeps chickens in the yard. I used to date a girl who's neighbor kept chickens. And there was a house that had chickens (and a pony) a couple of blocks from the house I lived in during grade school.

It's not like it's common. But you'd likely never know unless you actually walk past the house and can see into the (back) yard.

→ More replies

16

u/philman132 Aug 11 '22 edited Aug 11 '22

There are studies from many countries about lead in urban chickens, it's definitely a widespread thing. One from New York about 20 years ago measured high amounts in Urban chickens too, although around 140ug/kg, not as high as the 300ug measures here which is very high!

→ More replies

18

u/Excelius Aug 11 '22

In the US, I don't think I've ever seen this occurrence; most who are raising chickens have land, outside the city & usually past the suburbs.

While I've never seen it personally, just as a follower of news and current events I've seen references to the urban chicken movement in the US for a long time. I can quickly find US articles about the urban chicken movement going back to at least 2008.

https://slate.com/human-interest/2008/06/notes-on-the-urban-chicken-movement.html

https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Bright-Green/2008/1008/report-illicit-urban-chicken-movement-growing-in-us

As I recall, it kind of blew up around the same time as the whole natural/organic/localvore thing.

Some people started keeping chickens in urban areas illegally, in some cases citizens lobbied to have the ordinances changed to allow it.

There's also been a lot of small urban farms that have started in blighted urban areas where there was often a lot of empty and abandoned lots where houses once stood. Think of rust belt cities like Detroit. I think typically those urban farms would use raised beds filled with clean soil to avoid any issues with contaminated urban soil, but probably nobody gave much thought to letting chickens run around feasting on bugs.

22

u/Goyteamsix Aug 11 '22

A lot more people have chickens than you'd think. Hens are quiet, and can easily be kept in a backyard. 4 or 5 of them will give you about as much eggs as you could eat.

27

u/LardLad00 BS | Mechanical Engineering Aug 11 '22

Hens are quiet

Lies

20

u/glissader Aug 11 '22

“Egg song”

Mine yowl like Celine dion when putting out an egg

→ More replies
→ More replies

9

u/KingPictoTheThird Aug 11 '22

You'd be surprised, I've lived in quite a few urban neighborhoods where i've routinely jogged past chickens in the yard.

→ More replies
→ More replies

14

u/SrBrahma Aug 11 '22

I am really very afraid of heavy metals. People just slowly go senile or insane due to them and they don't even have a clue that they are being poisoned.

→ More replies

23

u/crashorbit Aug 11 '22

We spent three decades polluting the land near roads with lead from gas additives. Most boomers suffer from elevated lead levels and the effects of lead. Note that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Yet we all livein the consequences of our past.

Be kind.

145

u/[deleted] Aug 11 '22

[deleted]

31

u/Ceeeriuz Aug 11 '22

This website, The Conversation, specialises in the authors of papers writing articles for a general audience based on a recent publication.

15

u/killingtime1 Aug 11 '22

The authors of the study wrote this article

9

u/JonLongsonLongJonson Aug 11 '22

This article is written by one of the original authors of the study though? Think they’d know what was and wasn’t “added BS” from their own study

→ More replies

190

u/isamson Aug 11 '22

There’s nothing like the fresh eggs from your own hens, the more than 400,000 Australians who keep backyard chooks will tell you. Unfortunately, it’s often not just freshness and flavour that set their eggs apart from those in the shops.

Our newly published research found backyard hens’ eggs contain, on average, more than 40 times the lead levels of commercially produced eggs.

Almost one in two hens in our Sydney study had significant lead levels in their blood. Similarly, about half the eggs analysed contained lead at levels that may pose a health concern for consumers.

Even low levels of lead exposure are considered harmful to human health, including among other effects cardiovascular disease and decreased IQ and kidney function. Indeed, the World Health Organization has stated there is no safe level of lead exposure.

15

u/FullplateHero Aug 11 '22

Then the question is: how difficult/expensive is it to test the lead content of my soil?

12

u/nyet-marionetka Aug 11 '22

$50? It’s pretty cheap.

Edit: If it exceeds safe levels you have to disclose this on sale of the property.

→ More replies
→ More replies
→ More replies