Cinder blocks to build raised beds. It might not be a good idea.


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Last year I was thinking about building raised beds with cinder blocks, but the little voice inside me was not comfortable with the idea. I didn't know why, but I thought cinder blocks might have some chemicals that would not be good for the plants I want to eat.

Today I found this article, and it looks like it wasn't a good idea after all. It kinda sucks because I was gonna use them this year to build some beds.
http://preventdisease.com/news/15/020615_Warning-Cinder-Block-Concrete-Masonry-Gardens.shtml

FEBRUARY 6, 2015 by JOHN SUMMERLY
A Warning About Cinder Block or Concrete Masonry Gardens


Cinder block gardens have recently become very popular, however a risk of heavy metal poisons from Fly Ash within the concrete may pose a serious threat to the health of an organic garden, leeching toxins into the soil and the plants themselves.
Cinder blocks to build raised beds and also to plant directly inside the cells of this block are being promoted on Youtube videos and gardening sites. However, there is a strong possibility of poisons in the construction of these products that should deter anyone from using them to grow food.

The product Fly Ash is used as a Portland Cement replacement for up to 30% of the cement used to manufacture these products. For those of you unaware, Fly Ash is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before the flue gases reach the chimneys of coal-fired power plants, and together with bottom ash removed from the bottom of the furnace is in this case jointly known as coal ash.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has little power to restrict any chemical, but they've been investigating whether or not to label Fly Ash as a Hazardous Waste due to the high levels of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc, leaving some "Industry Folk" to refer to concrete as the "New Asbestos" or the "New Lead Paint".

If eaten, drunk or inhaled, these toxicants can cause cancer and nervous system impacts such as cognitive deficits, developmental delays and behavioral problems. They can also cause heart damage, lung disease, respiratory distress, kidney disease, reproductive problems, gastrointestinal illness, birth defects, and impaired bone growth in children.

The EPA has found that living next to a coal ash disposal site can increase your risk of cancer or other diseases. If you live near an unlined wet ash pond (surface impoundment) and you get your drinking water from a well, you may have as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Arsenic is one of the most common, and most dangerous, pollutants from coal ash. The EPA also found that living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage from cadmium, lead, and other toxic metals.

Despite the EPA knowing fully well that this product is unhealthy, after five and a half years of proposals, reworking and review of 450,000-plus comments, the EPA issued a final ruling fly ash could be safely processed and recycled. The ruling shocked many, especially since the use had trended negatively against historical patterns since the agency initiated management and disposal rulemaking in June 2009.

The process of creating cement locks these poisons into the blocks, but it is assumed that the blocks will be sealed and waterproofed, but even that process is toxic. These poisons will leech these materials into the soil and any plants in proximity. They should only be used for areas containing ornamental plantings only, and never for food crops.


Sources:
psr.org
concreteproducts.com
survivalblog.com

John Summerlyis nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.

What do you guys think?
 
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Interesting article. I'd never really thought about using cinder blocks, but it makes sense that being made out of cement they would have bad "stuff" in them. Plus, they're really not that pretty. Give me a big pile of rocks instead - or even some nice timbers.
 
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I was thinking about replacing my wooden raised gardens with cinder blocks this summer - thank you for this timely heads up. I would have been in a fine mess ...
 
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I would like to see the evidence that these blocks put toxic metals into plants. Not hard to do, grow some vegetables in raised beds made from these blocks and test them for toxicity. No mention in the article of anyone actually doing this.
 
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I understand there's no proof if you don't test the vegetables or the soil, but I bet testing is expensive, and I can't afford to grow test food. I need to eat what I grow. I would love to see proof that it's perfectly safe, but until then I think I'll pass. And it sucks because building beds with cinder blocks is very easy and affordable.

For now, I'll stick to untreated wood.
 
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I understand there's no proof if you don't test the vegetables or the soil, but I bet testing is expensive, and I can't afford to grow test food. I need to eat what I grow. I would love to see proof that it's perfectly safe, but until then I think I'll pass. And it sucks because building beds with cinder blocks is very easy and affordable.

For now, I'll stick to untreated wood.

I have never been tested to see if I am an elephant or not but I can assure you I am not an elephant.... :ROFLMAO:
 

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We call them concrete blocks in the UK, not sure if they use fly ash in them.
 
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it has to be better and every year I add organic compost, coconut coir/peat, and rock dust to amend the soil and boost the nutrients. I dont add any chemical fertilizers, bug sprays, etc so I'm confident I'm eating better than grocery store produce
 
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Does not just have to be concrete blocks to worry about, there can be all those heavy metals in any soil. Here we had the problem of finding hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of batteries in the soil. These ranged from modern torch ones back to the old accumulator types from pre-first world war. Our Veg patches were put where we found the fewest.
 
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I understand there's no proof if you don't test the vegetables or the soil, but I bet testing is expensive, and I can't afford to grow test food. I need to eat what I grow. I would love to see proof that it's perfectly safe, but until then I think I'll pass. And it sucks because building beds with cinder blocks is very easy and affordable.

For now, I'll stick to untreated wood.
You can go to the county extension agent, every county in Texas has one. Except maybe way out there in west Texas. It costs about $30.00 and they'll give you all kinds of #'s. Telling you about the soil PH and all that other stuff you want to know.
I wouldn't mess with those cinder blocks though. Stick with the untreated wood.
 
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Found this article quote interesting.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of using fly ash in concrete and masonry is that the fly ash isn’t merely sequestered, it’s transformed. Like portland cement, Class C fly ash contains lime, silica, and alumina. These ingredients react with water to crystallize into calcium silica hydrates (CSH), the matrix in concrete and masonry that binds the aggregate together. This is known as a pozzolanic reaction. If you break open a fly ash brick, you won’t find any fly ash inside, just CSH and aggregate.

Beneficial use of fly ash and other coal combustion products (CCP) goes far beyond mere containment, for precisely this reason. The pozzolanic reaction consumes the reactive compounds in the CCP and traps the heavy metals in the crystal structure. Once the reaction has taken place, exposure to water ceases to be an issue, because neither slumping nor leaching will result.
 
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Good to know! We were panning to start gardening again next year, so knowing this is really good, I'll definitely not use cinder blocks. After all those things are loaded with a lot chemicals, I don't want any of that near my plants or anything we might eating. Scary! Glad we never used those in the past.
 
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Interesting article. I'd never really thought about using cinder blocks, but it makes sense that being made out of cement they would have bad "stuff" in them. Plus, they're really not that pretty. Give me a big pile of rocks instead - or even some nice timbers.
Hehehe, I live very close to a place where they process the cement itself, some blocks away and let me tell you I have heard so many cases of employees who ended up getting lung cancer and other types of cancer. Strangely enough men and women who have been working there for very long. So yeah, I totally believe using cinder blocks is a bad idea.
 
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