"Follow the ... sludge"
As we've noted here on Garden Variety, there are those who believe that the White House kitchen garden is contaminated with toxic levels of lead as the result of a supposedly sludge dump in the early 1990s that was designed to encourage the grass on the South Lawn to grow.
(It was actually ComPRO that was used. It is a commercially available soil amendment that was, indeed, made from recycled waste, although it has been reformulated since. No one arrived at the White House with a dump truck from the nearby sewage treatment center.)
This controversy, which we are calling "Watercressgate," was given added momentum last week when Mother Jones magazine reported that "the national Park Service disclosed that the garden's soil is contaminated with toxic lead."
The editors of the blog Obama Foodorama, who keep track of the "Obama foodscape, one bipartisan bite at a time," went the extra mile and contacted three soil experts, all of whom agreed that a lead level of 93 parts per million, as recorded during soil testing of the proposed garden site before planting, is "ridiculously low," especially for an urban area where lead levels easily can be something like 2,000 parts per million.
Dr. Gabriel Filippelli, chair of the geology department at Indiana University and associate chair of the Center for Environmental Health, told Obama Foodorama 93 ppm was "ridiculously low."
Another expert, Dr. David Johnson, professor of environmental chemistry, environmental science and forestry at the State University of New York, said that the only way a lead contamination of 93 ppm could be toxic would be if the dirt itself were being eaten in large quantities.
Even concern that microorganism in the sludge might be harmful are unfounded since any such organisms are long since dead.
We here are Garden Variety would like everyone to take a deep breath and relax.
The Obamas are not growing lead paint chips on the South Lawn.