Lead Contaminated Soil

The soil around a house, garage, fence, outbuilding or former building site could be contaminated with lead paint or industrial pollution. If a home has been sandblasted or pressure washed, the contamination could extend further out.

If your Yard is Contaminated

An easy and inexpensive way to address lead in soil is to cover any bare dirt. Exposed soil is a greater hazard than grassy or covered soil, and is more serious if it's an area where children play. Pets can bring lead dust indoors too, so be sure to inspect their play area for bare spots. Try to fence off the soil until you can get it covered.

Covering Soil
  • Mix-in compost to dilute the lead concentration in soil.
  • Lay down fresh sod or seed yard.
  • Cover with six (6) inches of lead-free and arsenic-free wood chips, mulch, new soil or sand.
  • Lay newspaper, black plastic or black cloth underneath the mulch.
  • Pave over bare areas.
  • Install a deck, then block off the area underneath, such as with latticework.
  • Plant bushes around your home to keep pets and children away from the foundation.
  • Place mulch under shrubs.


You may want to test soil before gardening next to a building built before 1978 or along a roadway. Depending upon the level of contamination, you may need to restrict the type of produce grown or use fresh soil for raised-bed gardening. Although some produce can absorb lead from the soil, the bigger hazard is small amounts of lead clinging to the exterior of the plant and lead exposures from working in contaminated soil.

To help prevent lead exposures, discard outer leaves of leafy plants. Thoroughly wash all vegetables with soapy water, or use a 1% vinegar solution (1 to 2 ounces of vinegar to 1 gallon of water). To reduce the amount of lead plants absorb, maintain soil pH above 6.5, keep phosphorus levels high, and add organic matter.

Soil Testing

The federal standard for bare soil where children play is 400 parts lead per million soil; compared to 1,200 parts per million if children don't play there. 

Licensed Lead-Based Paint Entities
Contact a lead consulting firm for soil testing.

University of Nebraska Soil Testing Laboratories 

Omaha Residents

Certain communities in Omaha are located in an EPA Superfund site because lead has contaminated several residential yards. For more information about soil contamination in Omaha, see EPA and ATSDR's Your Guide to the Omaha Lead Superfund Site

City of Omaha Lead Program 402-731-3045


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