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Natural Awakenings

Eating Sewage: Avoid Sludge Used and Sold as Fertilizer

Eight million tons of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants, euphemistically renamed biosolids, is annually marketed as fertilizer and applied to the American farms and gardens that grow our food, as well as the parks where we play. No food crop, aside from those labeled U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic, is regulated to guard against it being grown on land treated with this sludge.

Because of the nitrogen and phosphorous found in human solid waste residue, the sludge industry and certain government bodies overlook the toxic blend of all that goes down the drain. That’s why a few conscientious companies like Del Monte and Heinz have long had a policy not to purchase food grown in sludge.

Sewage sludge contains antimicrobial compounds, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and pathogens that may be absorbed by food crops, water supplies and our bodies. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency requires testing for only nine chemical elements and two bacteria for land application of sewage sludge and no testing for residue buildup in soil. Meanwhile, studies from universities including Yale, Cornell and Johns Hopkins express concerns about the health and safety of this practice.

 

To protect health: Buy USDA-certified organic; ask at farm stands if they use sludge or biosolids; inquire about food and bagged fertilizer companies’ policies; and tell elected officials that citizens don’t want sewage sludge in America’s food and water supplies. For more information visit United Sludge-Free Alliance at www.USludgeFree.org.

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