Wednesday, February 10, 2010

toilet sludge growing your food

As if hormones, genetic modification, nutritional deficiency, and unsustainable agricultural practices weren't bad enough, here comes sewage sludge. The following information is made available by the Organic Consumers Association and the Institute For Agriculture and Trade Policy:

Several million dry tons of sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, are used as fertilizer on agricultural lands and given away or sold for use by homeowners and landscape contractors annually in the U.S. Sewage sludge is the semi-solid to solid matter left over following municipal wastewater treatment. It commonly contains nutrient-rich fecal matter along with bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and other chemical contaminants—many known to cause health effects.

For farmers, sludge is a less expensive alternative to synthetic fertilizers, but use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for food production increases our risk of exposure to sludge
contaminants and their associated health effects. Due to the persistent nature of some of these contaminants, repeated applications to the same piece of land can increase soil contaminant levels and possibly food contaminant levels for centuries to come.

What’s in sludge?

Though the types and levels of contaminants in sludge are
variable, sludge contaminants fall into three main groups,

1. Disease-causing microbes. Sewage treatment reduces but does not eliminate disease-causing microbes in sludge. Those commonly found in sludge include: 18 human-excreted viruses, including Hepatitis A and Polio; 19 parasites, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia; and 31 bacteria, including strains causing food poisoning (Salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7), as well as more virulent, antibiotic-resistant strains.

2. Synthetic chemicals. More than 500 synthetic chemical compounds, typically derived from fossil fuels, have been identified to date in various sludges, including chemicals from medicines and consumer products such as antidepressants, steroids, flame retardants, detergents, fragrances, disinfectants and more. Other chemicals still detectable in present-day sludge, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), have been banned from use for decades.

3. Heavy metals. Arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and other heavy metals are commonly detected in sludge, though concentrations have decreased for some metals over time. Also, radioactive material, both naturally occurring and from human-made sources (such as feces and urine from people undergoing radiation therapy), can be found in sludge.

While I took this information verbatim from the OCA, please follow the link to reach the PDF if you are curious about sources behind these facts (Click on "read more" under "Smart Guide on Slude Use and Food Production").

What can we do about sludge? I will be posting on this more to come, but for now: buy certified organic when possible, get to know farmers at local markets and inquire as to their farming practice, plant your own food (urban/community gardening), and get in touch with your elected officials. I will be posting sludge campaign information as it comes to my attention.

More on the history of sludge.

1 comment:

hshields said...

The US EPA and waste industry are promoting the landspreading of Class B sewage sludge containing infectious human and animal prions on grazing lands, hay fields, and dairy pastures. This puts livestock and wildlife at risk of infection. They ingest large quantities of dirt and top dressed sludge with their fodder.

Prion infected Class A sludge "biosolids" compost is spread in parks, playgrounds, home lawns, flower and vegetable gardens - putting humans, family pets, and children with their undeveloped immune systems and hand-to-mouth "eat dirt" behavior at risk. University of Wisconsin prion researchers, working with $100,000 EPA grant and a $5 million Dept. of Defense grant, have found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain types of soil. Prions can survive for over 3 years in soils. And human prions are 100,000 times more difficult to inactivate than animal prions

Recently, researchers at UC Santa Cruz, and elsewhere, announced that Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a prion disease. "Prion" = proteinaceous infectious particle which causes always fatal TSEs (Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) in humans and animals including BSE (Mad Cow Disease), scrapie in sheep and goats, and Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, elk and moose. Human prion diseases are AD and CJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease,) and other rarer maladies. Infectious prions have been found in human and animal muscle tissue including heart, saliva, blood, urine, feces and many other organs.

Alzheimer's rates are soaring as Babyboomers age - there are now over 5.3 million AD victims in US shedding infectious prions in their blood, urine and feces, into public sewers. This Alzheimer's epidemic has almost 500,000 new victims each year. No sewage treatment process inactivates prions - they are practically indestructible. The wastewater treatment process reconcentrates the infectious prions in the sewage sludge.

Quotes from Dr. Joel Pedersen, Univ. of Wisconsin, on his prion research:

Our results suggest that if prions were to enter municipal waste water treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in
treated biosolids. Land application of biosolids containing prions could represent a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results argue for excluding inputs of prions to municipal wastewater treatment."

"Prions could end up in wastewater treatment plants via slaughterhouse drains, hunted game cleaned in a sink, or humans with vCJD shedding prions in their urine or faeces, Pedersen says"
(Note - This UW research was conducted BEFORE UCSC scientists determined that Alzheimer's Disease is another prion disease which may be shedding infectious prions into public sewers and Class B and Class A sludge "biosolids.)

Helane Shields, Alton, NH 03809