Garden Gunk
July 2014
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Sewage Can Lurk in Bagged Fertilizers

dirtBagged garden fertilizers help plants grow, but store-bought brands can be a scary mix of sewage sludge—treated human, industrial and hospital waste. No federal or state regulations require that sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, be listed on the label. Sludge can also be blended with more natural fertilizers without listing it as an ingredient.

Today’s testing requirements for waste sludge cover only 10 elements and two indicator bacteria; all other contaminants, pharmaceuticals and toxic chemicals that go down the drain of every home and business go right into the fertilizer.

Terms like “organic” and “natural” only apply to some food products, not compost or fertilizer. Arsenic and lead are both considered natural ingredients.

Toxins and heavy metals don’t disappear when exposed to sun or rain; they enter the soil or travel by wind and water runoff into yards and communities and can be absorbed in vegetables, plants and livestock. When we consume foods grown in sludge, we consume whatever the plant takes up from the soil. Also, elements like heavy metals collect in the meat, milk and fat of animals that are fed crops grown in sewage sludge.

To protect the family garden, call the fertilizer manufacturer before purchasing a product to verify ingredients. Ask the nursery or store for labeling that depicts which products are sludgefree and also insist on their use at area schools, parks and playgrounds.


For more information, visit USludgeFree.org.