Arsenic found in allotment fruit and veg

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A HEALTH alert has been issued after food grown at a plot of allotments was found to be contaminated with arsenic and lead.

Calderdale Council officials have advised that no fruit or vegetables grown on Milner Royd allotments in Sowerby Bridge should be consumed until more tests can be carried out.

The first set of tests came after one of the plotholders became worried about the health of his five-year-old daughter as well as his own.

Bruce Fitzgerald, who grows his own produce on one of the 28 plots, said: “It may be a coincidence but it was a series of different illnesses she was getting one after the other and I was also feeling unwell. So I asked them to do the tests hoping they would come back clear – but they haven’t.”

“I’m absolutely gutted by what they’ve found. It leaves a cloud hanging over the site.”

All the plotholders have received a letter from environmental health officials at Calderdale Council outlining the results of an initial set of tests carried out last month.

The tests found that levels of arsenic in three of the five samples did not meet the Arsenic in Food Regulations which govern standards for sale in shops.

All of the samples, which were taken from four different allotments, were above the maximum levels for lead.

They were also tested for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (potent atmospheric pollutants) with some of the samples failing to meet the permissible levels.

The letter sets out the possible causes of the contamination, including the plots proximity to a former landfill site and former industrial sites.

The use of pesticides, fertilisers, soil improvers, coal ash and other chemicals by previous plotholders is put forward as another potential cause along with the burning of garden and other types of waste

The letter also cites naturally elevated levels of heavy metals in the geology in Calderdale and the possibility the site may also have been subject to fly-tipping.

In conclusion, it recommends: “As a precautionary approach it is advised that vegetables and fruit grown on this allotment site are not consumed until a more detailed assessment of the site has been undertaken.”

Mr Fitzgerald said: “I’ve put hundreds of hours in this year alone, let alone what I’ve done over the last two years. It was building up to be a good productive year. You think you’re doing it perfectly and then it just gets taken out from under you.”

Although all the plotholders have received the warning, Mr Fitzgerald believes some of them will choose to ignore the advice and carry on consuming the fruits of their labour.