Is it safe to pick roadside berries?

I mean safe in terms of air pollution from cars going by. Do the berries store exhaust fumes, making eating them in heavy traffic areas a health risk, or is it more likely to not be the case that they pose a health risk? Does anyone here have a really solid understanding of how something like berries would interact with exhaust fumes? Ideally, links to Pubmed studies would be appreciated to support what you’re saying. Thanks in advance


Not sure if the exhaust fumes are a problem. I suspect not, sometimes local governments will spray things like black berries with herbicides along road edges. In this case pick them and eat them before they succumb to the herbicide. Herbicides are made to kill plants and you are an animal, so should be safe with modern herbicides.


unless you have no other options, i will never understand why people go out of their way to eat things from untrusted sources. that said, generally, i would worry more about soil contamination than air pollution.

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My understanding is, Where the rain runs off the road into the soil, a certain amount of heavy metals and other contaminants from the road surface (eg oil, rubber, arsenic, copper, chrome) will be filtered out of the water into the soil. This is good for water quality, in that less contamination reaches waterways. I wouldn’t grow veges in such soil, but might be tempted to eat an occasional blackberry. Like you, I would like more thorough knowledge of the issue, as with timber suffused with chemicals to resist insect damage and rot.


Ya, I’ve heard that about spraying. I might contact the city in my area and ask if any roadsides are sprayed with any thing nasty

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It’s less the exhaust fumes as it is the particulate matter and the leaking oils that runoff from the pavement, and leak out of the asphalt itself.

That said, there is a world of difference between a busy road and a relatively remote rural road that doesn’t get much traffic.

Weather also plays a factor, with more rain helpful in cleaning particulates.

Basically, use your judgement.


So, air pollution is not necessarily the main problem.

The soil that protects groundwater by filtering out contaminants, and which contains roots of live plants, may likely retain material that was filtered out, which may then get taken up by some of the plants. Effectively, those plants help protect the groundwater by participating in the filtering process. Species of plants may differ to the degree to which they take up various contaminants. With their being part of the filter, some berries picked from the sides of heavily traveled roads may contain ingredients that you would rather not include in your diet. Eating a few of the berries may not be a problem, but it might not be a good idea to make them a regular part of your diet.

See National Library of Medicine: Clean-Up of Heavy Metals from Contaminated Soil by Phytoremediation: A Multidisciplinary and Eco-Friendly Approach.

If you would like to sample berries from such roadsides, it might be interesting to try to find out the degree to which the involved species may contain contaminants. For many species, though, such information will be difficult to find.


I’ve been picking, washing and eating roadside berries from rural roads for decades. I’m ok.:crazy_face:
I choose shaded rural roads that are not on or across from farms. I’ve seen too much spray damage near farms.


I would suggest if you’re worried about contaminants that you only harvest berries on soil across the ditch from the road and not the ones growing on soil that slopes away from the road. It’s not the air, but the soil. Alluvial soils (water deposited) will be particularly concentrated in contaminants if they are present, so be thinking about how water flows when it rains.