Understanding Pathways to Contaminant Exposure in North Carolina’s Community Gardens

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Urban agriculture and community gardens can be a means to increase the wellbeing of vulnerable communities, including reductions in food insecurity, opportunities for outdoor exercise and social interaction and even increases property values (Folstad et al., 2015). Unfortunately, community gardeners may potentially be exposed to contaminants through contact with soil at garden sites or through pesticide usage. There are three major factors that can increase the potential for the presence of contaminants and for subsequent exposure: i) the site's history and surrounding land uses; ii) land management practices in the garden; and iii) community gardeners' behaviors and perceptions (US EPA, 2011a). Additionally, based on previous research in North Carolina by the Duke Superfund Research Center, community gardens at risk of having contaminated soils often overlap with areas with a higher-than-average percentage of low-income and minority populations. There are, however, a number of land use practices that may reduce the potential for exposure to contaminants. In addition, individual behaviors surrounding personal hygiene, food safety, use of protective equipment, and additional precautions may also reduce the potential for exposure (Folstad et al., 2015). Our study applied a mixed methods approach to understand the extent to which community gardeners currently employ the land use management practices and individual behaviors that reduce exposure, as well as the barriers to adoption of these behaviors. Our findings will inform future efforts on the part of the Duke University Superfund Research Center to collaborate with community gardeners to reduce the potential for contaminant exposure.





Henson, Reilly, Sofia Tenorio Fenton and Elissa Tikalsky (2017). Understanding Pathways to Contaminant Exposure in North Carolina’s Community Gardens. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14209.

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