- Author: Mimi M Enright
Air quality in Sonoma County has been significantly impacted by the fires that spread through the region. The full scope of the air contamination is still unknown, but likely includes high concentrations of likely carcinogens including heavy metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
There is limited research on the impact of smoke from a wildfire in a wildland urban interface on produce safety. UCCE Sonoma is partnering with Vanessa Raditz, who was working with community organizations on emergency food relief during the crisis, to develop a Citizen Science project to assess the impact of the air pollution from the wildfire on produce. During the crisis Vanessa, who has a Master's degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley, began quickly developing a partnership with members of the community and UCCE Sonoma to gather samples and seek funding for testing and education on this topic.
Master Gardeners and other concerned community members were trained to collect samples from local farms and gardens of washed and unwashed produce, each in triplicate, to determine if contaminants can be easily washed off produce, or whether it has been taken up in plant tissue. Volunteers focused on kale, collards, chard, and lettuce, as these leaves are directly exposed to air pollution. Vanessa scheduled volunteer training at Bayer Farm, Harvest for the Hungry and Petaluma Bounty, and samples were taken from 10/19-22. Time was of the essence to gather samples which are all being frozen. Now we turn to find partners to find funding for the testing and develop an educational outreach program when results are received.
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