The use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for your food, renamed “biosolids” by slick industry PR firms, is a growing and under-publicized threat to human health. Sewage sludge is the residue generated during the treatment of domestic waste and contains a cocktail of hazardous substances from industry, hospitals and humans — anything that is discharged into the sewage system.
Today, city sewer lines run right to the factories, allowing them to dump their waste into the city’s sewage treatment plants. This saves industries a lot of money because once a regulated chemical or waste enters the sewer line, they’re suddenly exempt from EPA regulation.
While many, including myself, have highlighted the serious dangers posed by wide application of sewage sludge for decades, new awareness was created by a recent report from the U.S. Inspector General’s office (OIG) titled, “EPA Unable to Assess the Impact of Hundreds of Unregulated Pollutants in Land-Applied Biosolids on Human Health and the Environment.”
Beware the Biosolid Scam
A recent video, “Biosludged,”1 from the Health Ranger/Natural News, added more concerns to the already recognized biosolid threats of heavy metals, drugs, hormones and antibiotic resistance, namely bioterrorism. Anyone could introduce deadly substances into the sewage system, such as the Ebola virus, which would, courtesy of wide biosolids application, be disseminated to harm a large amount of people.
What people put down their toilet comes “right back on their dinner plate a few weeks later,” warns the video, citing the discovery of the blood thinner Warfarin, the toxic herbicide and endocrine disrupter atrazine, pesticides, fungicides, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, industrial drugs, chemical solvents, plasticizers and disinfectants in biosolids.
“If you wouldn’t put it in your garden, don’t flush it down toilet,” says Mike Adams, known as the Health Ranger, who adds that biosolids are the greatest environmental crime in America that most people have never heard of. While there is a Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, a Clean Soil Act is sorely needed says Adams.
Adams and his website are admittedly controversial, but it’s indisputable that the application of massive amounts of biosolids containing nitrogen and phosphorus, combined with other nitrogen-rich fertilizers, have contributed to the growing algae blooms along U.S. coasts. This environmental destruction harms human and animal life as well as water quality. Unfortunately, many of the southern states experience greater use of biosolids as they accept excrement exported from other cities.
Serious Questions About EPA Regulation of Biosolids
In November 2018, the U.S. Inspector General’s office released a scathing indictment of how the EPA regulates — or more accurately, doesn’t regulate — the biosolids industry. The OIG charged that:2
“The controls over the land application of sewage sludge (biosolids), including laws, regulations, guidance, policies or activities, were incomplete or had weaknesses and may not fully protect human health and the environment.
The EPA consistently monitored biosolids for nine regulated pollutants. However, the agency lacked the data or risk assessment tools needed to make a determination on the safety of 352 pollutants found in biosolids. The EPA identified these pollutants in a variety of studies from 1989 through 2015.
Our analysis determined that the 352 pollutants include 61 designated as acutely hazardous, hazardous or priority pollutants in other programs. The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to review biosolids regulations at least every two years to identify additional pollutants and promulgate regulations for such pollutants.”
What are some of the harmful pollutants the Inspector General found in biosolids?
“Unregulated pollutants identified include pharmaceuticals (e.g., ciprofloxacin, diphenhydramine and triclocarban); steroids and hormones (e.g., campesterol, cholestanol and coprostanol); and flame retardants.
The agency also identified perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) in biosolids research … 32 are hazardous wastes under RCRA (four of which are acutely hazardous). 35 are EPA priority pollutants. 16 are NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] hazardous drugs.”