Lead in Our Backyards

Have you wondered what’s in your soil?  North Brooklyn has a proud industrial history that included shipbuilders, pencil makers, sugar makers and petroleum refineries to name a few.  While these businesses have largely disappeared, according to recent research, both public and private soils in Greenpoint, Brooklyn may be contaminated with lead due to historical industrial practices, as well as residue from lead-based paint and gasoline. Lead is a neurotoxin that can enter a child’s bloodstream when ingesting or inhaling contaminated dust or dirt; young children who tend to put things in their mouth are especially at risk. With this in mind, National Wildlife Federation‘s Greenpoint Eco-Schools hosted a Lead Awareness & Action Day last Saturday, July 21st.


Keeping Outdoor Play Safe

The event celebrated the launch of a brand new educational postcard, “Keeping Outdoor Play Safe: Simple Steps To Reduce Lead Exposure From Soil.” The postcard is a product of a collaboration among National Wildlife Federation (NWF)’s Greenpoint Eco-Schools, local advocacy group, Neighbors Allied for Growth (NAG), parents at P.S. 110 Monitor School and 61 Franklin Garden.

Sarah Ward (NWF Greenpoint Eco-Schools Project Manager), Lisa Bloodgood (NAG Vice Chair), Fran Agnone (PS 110 Eco-Schools Sustainability Coach), community member, Alison Schuettinger (PS 34 Eco-Schools Sustainability Coach), 2 community members, Fai Walker (MS 126 Eco-Schools Sustainability Coach), Tatiana Morin (USI Director), & Alan Minor (NAG Chair). (l-r)

The postcard outlines best practices and preventative actions to ensure the health and safety of young children who may be exposed to lead-contaminated soil during outdoor play time, and is available in English, Spanish, and Polish languages. Eco School Sustainability Coach Fran Agnone said, “by mobilizing parents, the fiercest protectors of children’s health, we have found powerful advocates to confront the environmental issues that arise when living amongst industrial pollution. Time spent in nature is crucial to a child’s development, so anything we can do to make it safer and easier to get kids outside is a big win”.

Postcard front
Postcard back

What’s in Our Soil?

NYC Urban Soils Institute was also on hand to test soil samples (on the spot!) brought by community members. Using a $30,000 X-Ray Fluorescent (XRF) Gun, the testing of samples took only minutes and offered immediate results.  And what were the results last Saturday?  “No surprises,” said NYC Urban Soils Institute Director Tatiana Morin.  We’re seeing “high levels of lead and high levels of arsenic.”

Igor Bronz (USI) wielding the XRF Gun to check a soil sample.


The good news, however, is that these conditions can be mitigated by managing the soil through ongoing composting and mulching. Eco-School Sustainability Coach Fai Walker was quick to offer bags of rich compost that was created in M.S. 126’s garden compost bins. And of-course, do follow the tips offered by the educational postcard, “Keeping Outdoor Play Safe.”

If you missed last week’s Lead Awareness & Action Day, don’t worry.  Just check Go Green BK’s calendar often (and subscribe to Go Green BK’s weekly newsletter) to learn about other soil testing and educational events by NWF Greenpoint Eco-Schools and their community partners.