After my grandfather died, demolition crews dumped garbage from the house onto his huge vegetable garden, including lead-painted windows, aluminum, asbestos tiles and more. Much of it got burned in a few bonfires, which I assume released the toxins into the soil.

I've cleaned out every object I can see from that pile, but I'm wondering if the vegetables grown in that soil will be toxic? It's been about three years since the demolition.

Also, to avoid the possible toxins from that area, we created a raised container garden using soil from a different location. Yesterday, 3 Tablespoons of paint thinner mixed with water was dumped accidentally on one of the plants. We hosed it down, and it's still alive, but I'm thinking that the squash it will eventually produce is now toxic too, right?

Thanks in advance. We're new to gardening and really want to understand how this works.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Was the paint thinner still clean (i.e. not mixed with actual paint)? Paint thinner itself is pretty volatile and will evaporate soon. $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Jul 18, 2019 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


You could use other plants to extract harmful substances from the soil. There are plants which are called hyperaccumulators which absorb high amounts of contaminants from the soil. Have a look at at Phytoremediation where the process of phytoextraction is described in detail.

Normally phyotextraction needs several generations of plants to be grown in order to be effective. Consequently you could just plant your vegetables as usual but take samples and test them for heavy metals or other contaminants of concern.


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