A Warning About Cinder Block or Concrete Masonry Gardens
Cinder block gardens have recently become very popular, however a risk of heavy metal poisons from Fly Ash within the concrete may pose a serious threat to the health of an organic garden, leeching toxins into the soil and the plants themselves.
Cinder blocks to build raised beds and also to plant directly inside the cells of this block are being promoted on Youtube videos and gardening sites. However, there is a strong possibility of poisons in the construction of these products that should deter anyone from using them to grow food.
The product Fly Ash is used as a Portland Cement replacement for up to 30% of the cement used to manufacture these products. For those of you unaware, Fly Ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys of coal-fired power plants, and together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the furnace is in this case jointly known as coal ash.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has little power to restrict any chemical, but they've been investigating whether or not to label Fly Ash as a Hazardous Waste due to the high levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc, leaving some "Industry Folk" to refer to concrete as the "New Asbestos" or the "New Lead Paint".
If eaten, drunk or inhaled, these toxicants can cause cancer and nervous system impacts such as cognitive deficits, developmental delays and behavioral problems. They can also cause heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, and impaired bone growth in children.
The EPA has found that living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer or other diseases. If you live near an unlined wet ash pond (surface impoundment) and you get your drinking water from a well, you may have as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Arsenic is one of the most common, and most dangerous, pollutants from coal ash. The EPA also found that living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage from cadmium, lead, and other toxic metals.
Despite the EPA knowing fully well that this product is unhealthy, after five and a half years of proposals, reworking and review of 450,000-plus comments, the EPA issued a final ruling fly ash could be safely processed and recycled. The ruling shocked many, especially since the use had trended negatively against historical patterns since the agency initiated management and disposal rulemaking in June 2009.
The process of creating cement locks these poisons into the blocks, but it is assumed that the blocks will be sealed and waterproofed, but even that process is toxic. These poisons will leech these materials into the soil and any plants in proximity. They should only be used for areas containing ornamental plantings only, and never for food crops.
John Summerlyis nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.