• Outdoors Outdoors

Independent testing reveals asbestos contamination in landscaping soil: 'Unsuitable for any sort of horticultural use'

This discovery shows big problems with how regulations are followed and enforced.

This discovery shows big problems with how regulations are followed and enforced.

Photo Credit: iStock

Imagine buying a bag of flour for baking, only to find out it contains shards of glass. That's similar to what's happening in New South Wales, where recycled soil sold at landscape stores has been found to contain asbestos, a harmful material, along with other contaminants.

What's happening?

A recent investigation by Guardian Australia tested recycled soil from several Sydney landscape supply shops and found dangerous materials — including asbestos fibers, pieces of glass, and metal screws. 

The study analyzed soil products from four landscape supply stores in Sydney. The investigation revealed alarming results, with one product found to contain asbestos fibers, posing a significant health hazard.

Additionally, The Guardian reported that another product was deemed "unsuitable for any sort of horticultural use," according to Jason Scarborough, a former senior waste compliance officer at the NSW Environment Protection Authority, who took the samples for testing.

This alarming discovery comes more than a decade after initial warnings about potential contamination in recycled soil products. In 2013 and again in 2019, investigations revealed that facilities producing recycled soil were not following regulations designed to prevent the spread of harmful materials like asbestos. 

Despite these early warnings, recent tests show that hazardous materials are still making their way into soil products, highlighting ongoing issues with regulatory oversight and enforcement.

Why is asbestos in soil concerning?

The presence of asbestos in soil products is worrying because it's dangerous to our health. 

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can lead to serious conditions such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. These contaminated soil products are used in parks, schools, and private gardens, putting many people at risk of exposure.

This discovery shows big problems with how regulations are followed and enforced, raising doubts about whether current waste-management practices are keeping us safe. If these practices don't improve, more contaminated products could end up on the market, posing health risks to unsuspecting people and causing long-term harm to the environment.

What's being done about asbestos in soil?

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority is taking action in response to these findings and recognizes the need for stricter regulations. 

Following the investigation, the EPA said it planned to enforce new rules and has already issued notices to stop the distribution of contaminated materials. Additionally, the EPA is working with the waste industry to improve asbestos management in recycled products.

Individuals can also protect themselves by checking their soil for visible contaminants. For instance, one gardener discovered their new soil was full of unfinished compost and debris, which absorbed nutrients meant for plants. 

You can also avoid chemical herbicides and pesticides in your garden. Toxins in these products can prevent plants from growing properly and make produce unsafe to eat. 

By staying informed and vigilant, regulators and individuals can work together to ensure safer soil products for everyone. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider