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Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer

  • Subject: [cg] Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer
  • From: Laura Berman <laura@foodshare.net>
  • Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2001 13:00:41 -0400

Some light reading for those of you still using chemical fertilizers. Be
sure to click on the link at the bottom for the full USPIRG report.

Bon apetite

Your Fertilizer Ends Up in Your Plants.
But What's Ending Up in It?
With summer in full gear, the spades and hoes are out in full force as
Americans get growing. From vegetables to flowers, the plants are in, the
soil is watered, the fertilizer applied, and all is well in the garden.
Except for one largely overlooked detail: that fertilizer you're using may
have been made with toxic waste, and it could be poisoning your soil, your
crops, and your family.

A new study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) has found
that commercial fertilizers contain toxic metals and are turning the
nation's yards and gardens into a de facto dumping ground for hazardous
The report, Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer, analyzed 29
separate fertilizers and found that each of them contained an astonishing
array of 22 different heavy metals. In 20 of the tested products, levels of
these poisons were so high that they exceeded the limits set on wastes sent
to public landfills.
The fertilizers were purchased in 12 states and then tested by Frontier
Geosciences, an EPA-accredited independent laboratory in Seattle. The
analysis revealed disturbing quantities of arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium,
chromium, and dioxin, among other dangerous contaminants.

How has this come to be? That answer is simple: Industrial facilities are
"recycling" their wastes as low-cost "nutrients" and are selling these
materials to fertilizer companies seeking inexpensive sources for zinc and
iron. These industrial wastes, while providing such beneficial minerals, are
also loaded with persistent toxic chemicals and metals.

In addition to any hazards of direct exposure that can come when children
play on recently fertilized lawns or gardeners weed in freshly fed flower
beds, these toxic contaminants can remain in the soil for years and can be
absorbed by anything growing there, a particular concern when it comes to
food crops. In fact, a California Department of Food and Agriculture
assessment of the health risk posed by toxic fertilizers called the eating
of food grown with contaminated fertilizers the greatest single source of
exposure to these toxins among all commercial products.

For information on the USPIRG report, visit:

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