If you don’t want to wind up with shampoo chemicals in your garden tomatoes, this information is for you. Now, I get it. When you swing by your local home improvement store for bagged fertilizer for your lawn or garden, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is toxic compounds. But there’s something you need to know. Human sewage sludge in compost is common and often marketed as “organic” despite chemicals sneaking into the mix.
This “sludge” is the biosolid product leftover in wastewater treatment plants. In theory, using human waste as a nitrogen-rich, natural fertilizer seems logical, but it’s not that simple today. Why? Think of all of the things that go down the drain and into wastewater plants: everything from shampoo and antibacterial soap chemicals to medication residues and more. And it’s not just what’s drain-bound from U.S. homes, either. Waste from mortuaries, hospitals, industry and businesses also winds up in wastewater treatment plants and often in the leftover sludge, too.
In fact, elevated concentrations of the antibacterial soap chemical triclosan and even flame retardants find their way into biosolids. (Biosolids is a nicer word for sewage sludge). These harmful compounds find their way into yards, playgrounds, golf courses and farm fields (1)
Human Sewage Sludge in Compost: What Are the Threats?
According to United Sludge-Free Alliance, legal loopholes supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, state environmental protection agencies, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped catapult the sewage sludge industry to become big business. After all, there’s a lot of waste to deal with…it has to go somewhere.
This human sludge used to be dumped at sea but was causing major problem and was banned in the 1990s. Instead, federal, state and local entities decided to market this harmful sludge as “biosolids” and “organic fertilizer” or “compost” to get rid of it in a cheap way.
The real issue is we need to clean up our nation’s chemical laws so toxic chemicals don’t wind up in wastewater treatment plants that can’t handle them in the first place. But until then, I can’t recommend you using compost or other fertilizers containing human sewage sludge in your garden or anywhere else. And get this: Arizona State University researchers are now turning to human sewage sludge to track the harmful chemicals inside of humans. Knowing this, it’s pretty clear our sludge is in no way safe to use in our gardens, farm fields or beyond. (2)
Here are important dangers of human sewage sludge in compost and fertilizing products:
Milorganite, a sludge-based product marketed as organic-based nitrogen fertilizer, comes from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. According to Darree Sicher of United Sludge-Free Alliance, some Milorganite human sewage sludge in compost/fertilizer products contain a warning label that reads: “WARNING this product contains detectable quantities of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. This notice in no way implies that we have any evidence or experience to indicate that any genuine hazard of cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm results from the normal, proper handling described on our label and related literature.”
Milorganite’s also been under fire for high levels of PCB contamination. (PCBs are linked to several types of cancer.) According to a Milwaukee Sentinel report, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District faced toxic sewer conditions that led to tons of Milorganite fertilizer contamination. Thousands of pounds were distributed before routine testing uncovered the contamination. Thirty recreational fields using the “organic” compost were closed until the hazardous topsoil could be removed. The contamination in this case came from leaking storage tanks and hydraulic lines that were oozing into city sewers. (3)
Heavy metals, including nanoparticle silver, have been detected in human sewage sludge. (4, 5) If you continuously apply sewage sludge contaminated with heavy metals in your garden, be building up dangerous metals in your soil and food.
As Sicher notes, even the EPA, USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognize that heavy metals “translocate” into edible tissue of plants and animals. She says many sludges contain substances that could contaminate certain crops, making them unfit for human consumption. The contaminants of greatest concern are heavy metals, toxic organic compounds and pathogenic microorganisms.
The EPA federal policy recognizes the following edible plants by gauging their metal uptake:
- High uptake — lettuce, spinach, chard, escarole, endive, cress, turnip greens and carrots
- Moderate uptake — kale, collards, beets, turnips, radish, mustard, potatoes, and onion.
Flame Retardants & Personal Care Chemicals
Arizona State University scientists found that 10 of the 11 chemicals found in greatest abundance in treated municipal sludge or biosolids included high-production volume chemicals: flame-retardants, antimicrobials and surfactants. (Surfactants often can be found in detergents, emulsifiers and foaming agents and dispersants found in everything from the fracking industry to shampoos and soaps.) The treated sludge also tested positive for abundant levels of pharmaceutical and personal care products. Also detected? Brominated flame retardants commonly found in plastics, textiles, electronics and couch foam. (6)
Possible Sewage Sludge Symptoms
How to Source Safer Compost & Protect Your Community
Compost is certainly important for home gardens and if properly sources, is much safer than harsh chemical-based products that can sterilize beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re avoiding human sewage sludge in compost:
- If your municipality offers free compost, be sure to call the office and find out the source of the compost. Is it just leaves or are biosolids used, too?
- Don’t be tricked by bag labels. There are no labeling requirements for bagged fertilizers. Even if a product contains sewage sludge or biosolids as an ingredient, it can still be marketed as “compost” without disclosing the sludge. Sludge can legally be blended into other bagged fertilizers with no labeling requirement.
- Human sewage sludge in compost can be marketed using words like: “organic,” “sterilized,” “pasteurized” or “sanitized.”
- Consider making your own compost. Here’s how.
- If you want to purchase bagged compost/fertilizer, call the 1-800 number on the package and ask what is used to create the product. Avoid anything with biosolids/municipal waste.
- Urge your local officials to stop using sludge/biosolids on your parks, playgrounds, schools and athletic fields. Tell your state and federal elected officials a change to the laws to keep human sewage sludge in compost out of food, water and communities.
Products Linked to Human Sewage Sludge Ingredients
According to United Sludge-Free Alliance, here are some (but likely not all) products containing human sewage sludge:
- All‐Gro (Synagro)
- Agresoil (NJ)Amend (Kellog)
- Bay State Fertilizer (Boston, MA)
- Chesapeake Sunshine
- ComPro (Washington, D.C.)
- Dillo Dirt (Austin, TX)
- Earthlife (New England Organics)
- Earthmate (Philadelphia PA)
- EKO compost
- Glacier Gold (Olney, MT)
- Granulite (Synagro)
- GroCo (Seattle, WA)
- Gromulch (Kellog product)
- Hou‐Actinite (Houston, TX)
- Landscapers’ Advantage (PA)
- Meadow Life (New Jersey)
- MetroGro (Madison, WI)
- Milorganite (Milwaukee, WI)
- N‐Viro BioBlend
- N‐Viro Soil
- Nitrohumus (Kellog)
- Nutri‐Blend Inc. (Richmond VA)
- Nutri‐Green (Virginia Beach, VA)
- ORGRO (Baltimore, MD, marketed by Veolia Water North America)
- OCEANGRO (NJ)
- SilviGrow (Seattle, WA)
- SkyRocket (Comox, BC, Canada)
- SoilPro, Los Angeles, CA
- SoundGRO (Pierce County, WA)
- TAGRO (Tacoma, WA)
- TOPGRO (Los Angeles, CA)
- Tuscarora Landscaper’s Choice (Leesburg, VA)
- UAJA ComposT (Central Pennsylvania) (10)
Final Thoughts on Human Sewage Sludge in Compost
- If what homes, businesses, industry, hospitals and mortuaries put down drains was not so hazardous, the idea of using human waste for compost and fertilizer would be much safer. It’s not the poop that’s the issues, but the other things we put down the drain. To use biosolids safely, we’d need sweeping chemical reform on a national level to keep harmful chemicals off the market in the first place.
- Sewage sludge is commonly used in playgrounds, parks, athletic fields, gardens and golf courses.
- Sewage sludge in compost products could contain heavy metals, industrial chemicals, trace pharmaceuticals and hormone-disrupting chemicals and other toxic compounds.
- Certain crops grown in human sewage sludge have been shown to “take up” heavy metals and even phthalates, a common class of fragrance ingredients in everything from shampoo and soaps to lotions and makeup.
- Municipalities sometimes mix green waste with sewage sludge and give it away free.
- Your best bet is to make your own compost. Call any bagged compost or municipalities to find out the source of the compost. United Sludge-Free Alliance notes that if the bag says topsoil, it is usually topsoil. If the bag says it is humus from a location, it is probably all humus. If the bag says compost and nothing else, it is a “crap shoot” at best.
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Imagine a rotting corpse draped over your body from head to toe...
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Is Bread Really the Staff of Life… or the Stuff of Disease?
For most us, there are few foods more comforting than bread.
Fluffy biscuits, crusty baguettes, flaky croissants… even a simple slice of toast topped with melted butter can taste like heaven.
And that smell… few scents are quite as pleasant as fresh bread baking in the oven.
But there is a lot of confusion as to where bread fits into a healthy diet.
The Bible practically commands followers to eat it: “Give us this day our daily bread…” The government put it at the base of the food pyramid. And for centuries, it has been called “the staff of life.”
Of course, there are some who disagree…
Well-known cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, calls wheat “the perfect chronic poison.”
And for a poison, we sure eat lots of it…
The average American consumes 55 pounds of wheat flour every year, making refined flour the #1 source of calories in the American Diet – a situation that nutrition expert Chris Kresser describes as, “a public health catastrophe.”
So, what is the truth about bread and wheat?
- Is it the perfect poison… or an essential daily food?
- Is “gluten-free” bread better for you than regular bread?
- And can you still eat bread… while maintaining a lean body and optimal health?
The answers to these questions may surprise you!
Be sure to read #5 – the biggest surprise of all!
Recently, Doctor of Naturopathy, weight-loss expert and best-selling Amazon author Liz Swann Miller, creator of the Red Smoothie Detox Factor, revealed 2 of the secrets to easy, steady weight loss. Secrets the big food corporations do their best to hide from us.
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You probably know most of us eat too much processed food. What you may not know is that it’s full of toxic chemicals and substandard, dirt-cheap ingredients designed to make you eat more…and force you to gain weight.
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“That stuff is just a lot of calories your body can’t use,” Liz told me, “Some are poison. And all these foods are stripped of the anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories that help your body detox. The result? Your body expends huge amounts of calories to eliminate some toxins—the rest, it stores in your fat to protect you. This is why most people are hungry all the time. They’re not getting energy they need.”
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Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
2) Forget what you've read about 10-day lemonade cleanses, 7-day detoxes with green juices and Gwyneth's gruel. All you need to do, and this is perfect for Saturday or or anytime really, is a simple 1-day cleanse.
3) This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.