Ah, "stick season." We're nearly there. The leaves have almost finished falling from the trees. While getting my exercise raking the leaves in the back yard, I also got my exercise learning about the toxins in leaves. Even though those autumn leaves look beautiful, they have some not so pretty secrets.
It turns out that leaves that grow and fall along urban streets have tested positive for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances, such as tobacco and charbroiled meat. PAHs can either be synthetic or occur naturally. The exhaust fumes from cars raise the level of PAHs, which makes the leaves in front of your home exposed and a bad choice for composting.
PAHs can affect your health in many serious ways; they can cause cancer and fertility issues. There is a lot of research on PAHs, many new studies are finding that they can be development and reproductive toxicants, interfering with the development of a fetus and causing harm to your reproductive system. Even more, a recent study cited men with high PAH exposure as having a 53% higher risk of infertility than men with low PHA exposure.
Pretty heavy stuff, eh? As a general rule, don't compost your roadside leaves. Remember to check with your local solid waste and composting sites about your leaves. And by all means, don't burn them! Does anyone have any further suggestions about leaves?