Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Historic Pesticide Contamination Task Force
Version of This Fact Sheet (23 Kb)
Historic Pesticide Contamination
Information for home owners, home buyers and other members of the public
With the development of New Jersey's agricultural land, builders, buyers and sellers are becoming aware of the possible presence of pesticide residues in former farmland soils. Homebuyers are considering this issue among the various environmental factors which may affect properties, such as the quality of drinking water, the presence of lead-based paint and radon gas, and the integrity of any heating oil tanks. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) formed a task force to examine this issue and to make recommendations to assist those involved with properties which may have contamination due to the historical use of pesticides.
A wide variety of pesticides have been used in New Jersey over the last 100 years. Arsenic-based pesticides were used extensively to control agricultural pests in fruit orchards, vegetable fields, golf courses and turf farms, from the turn of the century until the late 1960s. DDT and Aldrin were used extensively for a wide range of insect pests on vegetables and fruits throughout the 1950s and 1960s. These pesticides tend to bind tightly to the soil, most often in the surface layer and are persistent in the environment and thus may be present in the soil long after they have been applied. Breakdown of the products is slow.
As a result, residues of a number of pesticides can be found in soils at levels that may pose a human health risk when the land changes from farms to other uses. Arsenic, Lead, DDT and Aldrin (along with several metabolites or breakdown products) are considered to be the primary “pesticides of concern” (More information on these substances). These pesticides were selected based on several factors, including their extensive agricultural use for many years, their persistence in the environment, and the fact that they have been detected at elevated concentrations at various locations in New Jersey.
In addition to levels that may result from past application of pesticides, arsenic is naturally occurring in soil at levels that can vary widely throughout the state. Sandy soils tend to have lower concentrations, while soils with high organic or clay content tend to have higher concentrations of arsenic. Although some metals such as arsenic can be expected to occur naturally at elevated levels, man-made compounds such as DDT and Aldrin/Dieldrin indicate human impacts to the soil.
NJDEP estimates that up to five percent of the state’s acreage may be impacted. The primary concern has to do with human health impacts resulting from long-term ingestion of contaminated soil, particularly by children.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Site Remediation Program
Last updated: 23 October 2000
Please send your comments to: askDEP@dep.state.nj.us