It's pretty hard to believe, but toxic wastes from mining, steel mills, pulp mills, and other industries are made into fertilizer with virtually no regulations. These wastes contain dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, dioxin, and other poisons and wind up in fertilizer products used for farms and backyard gardens.
Steel mills, paper mills, and other major polluting industries are turning their waste into fertilizer which is spread onto food-producing lands. As a result, poisons such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, and dioxins wind up in fertilizer products used for farms and backyard gardens.
This practice has been going on for several decades but went unnoticed by the general public and virtually unregulated by the government. A group of determined farmers and then-Mayor Patty Martin in Quincy, Washington, discovered this unbelievable practice when they were searching for answers for failed crops and dying livestock. What the farmers and mayor eventually helped to uncover for the nation was that it is a common practice for toxic wastes from major industrial polluters to be made into fertilizer.
Exposure to toxic metals, dioxins and other chemicals in fertilizers is a health concern for farmworkers and farmers who handle these products, workers who manufacture fertilizers, communities where these products are applied, and consumers who eat the food grown with these products.
The buildup of metals and other contaminants in agricultural soils may cause crop damage, contamination of groundwater or surface water, and the contamination of food. Lead, cadmium, arsenic, and dioxins are all harmful to children and adults at low doses and they persist in the environment.
The EPA has proposed a rule to regulate toxic waste in fertilizer. The EPA should be sure to do the following:
* Keep toxic waste out of our food supply by banning toxic waste in fertilizer, especially wastes containing dioxin.
* As an interim step, adopt stringent standards for metals in fertilizers and close loopholes that give special treatment to mining waste and steel-mill waste.
* Fully label all fertilizers with the actual levels of contaminants, and the EPA should establish a comprehensive tracking system for all wastes going to fertilizer.