Chicago Safe Soils Initiative

Residents of the Chicago metropolitan region (CMR) practice urban agriculture in forms varying from home gardens to commercial farms. However, food production in the urban environment can entail elevated risks to human health due to soil heavy metal contamination. This project will build tools to inform stakeholder decision-making and develop evidence-based guidelines for soil lead (Pb) risk to food production in CMR. To do so, citizen-science and stakeholder collaboration is being used to develop open-access testing and visualization tools for soil contamination identification and management.

Citizen-Science & the Chicago Safe Soils Project Need You!

This collaborative initiative between University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois Extension, and Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is building tools to inform stakeholder decision-making and develop evidence-based guidelines for soil risk to food production in Chicago, with the support of the UIUC College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Specifically, we will:

  • Leverage citizen-science to develop tools to identify and manage soil Pb contamination
  • Map heavy metal contamination hot spots in soils across Chicago
  • Field-trial and identify ‘best bets’ to minimize soil
    Pb risk, including safe crop choices and effective mitigation treatments

You can help us by submitting a soil sample from your urban garden, farm, or yard to our lab for FREE Pb screening following the instructions below. In-ground soil samples (i.e., not raised beds) preferred, but all samples welcomed! Options for participation include:

  • Get your soil screened for Pb at no cost:
    • Sample your soil(s) (instructions below)
    • Fill out a Soil Sample Intake Form
    • Mail samples to Attn: Chicago Safe Soils Initiative, 1102 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61821
    • Or, bring samples to an AUA or UIUC event (see www.auachicago.org/events for upcoming events)
  • Participate in longer-term site trials to evaluate safe crop choices and effective mitigation treatments. Apply online to host a trial:
  • Contact ChicagoSoils@gmail.com for more details).