VegeSafe: a community science program generating a national residential garden soil metal(loid) database

Paul James Harvey*, Phoebe Grace Peterson, Mark Patrick Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    VegeSafe is a national community science initiative aimed at characterising soils in Australian residential gardens and community gardens. The program has been operating for over 5 years and has generated soil metal(loid) data from over 8600 residential garden and community garden soil samples, submitted by almost 2000 community scientists. The VegeSafe program represents the largest archive of soil metal(loid) data and associated metadata for residential garden soils in Australia. Samples were collected across Australia, with 61% of samples collected from NSW (n = 5284), Victoria (VIC) 20% (n = 1688) of samples and Queensland (QLD) 7% (n = 592) of samples. Soil metal(loid) data obtained by analysis of bulk soil samples by portable X-ray florescence spectrometry (pXRF) for As, Cu, Cr Mn, Pb and Zn showed spatial patterns of greater soil metal(loid) concentrations around city areas, particularly in NSW and VIC. The Australian Health Investigation Levels for low-density residential land uses (HIL-A) were used in this study as guideline values for soil metal(loid) concentrations. Overall, there was a relatively small number of HIL-A exceedances in the dataset, with most metal(loid)s exceeding their HIL-A concentration in < 5% of incidences. The notable exception to this was for Pb, which had HIL-A (300 mg/kg) exceeded in 27% (n = 1427) of samples in NSW, 17% (n = 280) in VIC and 10% (n = 61) in QLD. Through the power of community engagement and community science, the VegeSafe program presents an unprecedented insight into soil metal(loid) concentrations in Australian residential gardens.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33745-33754
    Number of pages10
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
    Issue number33
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


    • Community garden
    • Exposure
    • Health
    • Metal(loid)s
    • Residential soils


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