Urban gardens provide affordable fresh produce to communities with limited access to healthy food but may also increase exposure to lead (Pb) and other soil contaminants. Metals analysis of 564 soil samples from 54 New York City (NYC) community gardens found at least one sample exceeding health-based guidance values in 70% of gardens. However, most samples (78%) did not exceed guidance values, and medians were generally below those reported in NYC soil and other urban gardening studies. Barium (Ba) and Pb most frequently exceeded guidance values and along with cadmium (Cd) were strongly correlated with zinc (Zn), a commonly measured nutrient. Principal component analysis suggested that contaminants varied independently from organic matter and geogenic metals. Contaminants were associated with visible debris and a lack of raised beds; management practices (e.g., importing uncontaminated soil) have likely reduced metals concentrations. Continued exposure reduction efforts would benefit communities already burdened by environmental exposures.
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