Frequently asked questions
- Is there a risk to health from land that is contaminated?
- I want to build a basement beneath my property - do I have to check for contamination before starting the works?
- I am re-landscaping my garden - do I have to check for contamination before starting work?
- Is it safe to grow vegetables in my garden?
Is there a risk to health from land that is contaminated?
Many of the potentially contaminated sites do not pose any significant risk to human health or the environment because there is no link between the contamination and those potentially at risk from it. For pollution to be a risk, there has to be a means by which people come into contact with the chemical by breathing, eating or by skin contact. If exposure does occur, a number of other factors are important including the amount to which you are exposed (the dose), the way you are exposed and the length of time you are exposed. Therefore, people have to be exposed to the pollutant either in large enough quantities, or long enough periods of time to potentially cause harm.
Further information can be found on the Public Health England website.
I want to build a basement beneath my property - do I have to check for contamination before starting the works?
If your property is built on, or in close proximity to, previously industrial land and you are planning a basement excavation, there is a risk that construction workers and residents may come into contact with contaminated soil. It is advisable to hire an environmental consultant to look into the risks posed from the basement development before any works go ahead to ensure the health and safety of the construction workers and to make sure the materials you are constructing your basement from are suitable. If planning permission is required and there is the potential for contamination to be present, the development will be regulated through planning conditions which are set in conjunction with the Environmental Health Department. The conditions will ensure that the development is completed safely.
If your property is built on previously industrial land and you are re-landscaping your garden there is a risk that construction workers and residents may come into contact with contaminated soil. It is advisable to hire an environmental consultant to look into the risks posed from the soil before any works go ahead to ensure the health and safety of the construction workers and to ensure there is no risk from contamination following completion of works.
Depending on the extent of the re-landscaping works, planning permission may be required. If so and there is the potential for contamination to be present, the development will be regulated through planning conditions and conditions may be set to ensure any risks posed are dealt with.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables in London has many potential health benefits, however the pollution that exists in our city (from the air and the ground) can sometimes find its way into the fruit and vegetables we grow in our gardens.
To ensure that your homegrown fruit and veg are as healthy as possible make sure that you:
- thoroughly wash and peel your fruit and vegetables from the garden before eating them
- wash your hands thoroughly after working or playing in the garden and before handling food
- keep the soil covered with mulch if you are worried about airborne pollution contaminating your soil or crops
- grow your vegetables in pots or beds filled with shop bought compost if you are at all worried about the quality of the soil in your garden.
If you know that your property is located on land which has had a previous industrial use and the land has not been remediated, you may wish to grow home-grown produce in raised beds or pots which contain clean compost. If you are at all concerned about growing home-grown produce in your garden, please contact the Pollution Regulatory Team on tel: 020 7361 3002 or email us at: EH-Pollution@rbkc.gov.uk for further information.
For more information about growing vegetables please visit the Environmental Protection UK website.