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Fateful Harvest

Fateful Harvest

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Fateful Harvest

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  1. Fateful Harvest Recycling toxic waste into common fertilizers September 2002, Duff Wilson

  2. Plant nutrients N nitrogen P phosphorus K potassium Zn zinc B boron Fe iron Toxic waste can be called “fertilizer” if it includes 1% or more of a plant nutrient, or “liming material” if it is alkaline. Regulators only check for the labeled chemicals. The fertilizer loophole September 2002, Duff Wilson

  3. Some industrial wastes with arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, dioxins, etc., are “recycled” through ordinary fertilizer without testing, standards or disclosure. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  4. Materials: Ashes Acids Slag Tailings Industries: Steel Copper Brass Galvanizing Electronics Chemicals Mining Cement kiln Gypsum Nuclear Coal combustion Wastes in fertilizer September 2002, Duff Wilson

  5. Legal underpinnings • 1976 RCRA • 20X landfill costs. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” • Land Disposal Restrictions • 1980 Bevill Amendment • exempts mining waste, coal ash, CKD as “essentially earthen” high volume waste • 1988 K061 exemption • electric arc furnace dust September 2002, Duff Wilson

  6. Policy underpinnings • For government • Dual role: regulation and promotion • Dilution is the solution to pollution • For industry • Save money on waste disposal • Save money on raw material for fertilizer • It’s legal. Topsoil has become the legal repository for wastes no longer allowed as emissions to air or water September 2002, Duff Wilson

  7. Quantity • Unknown share of 110 billion pounds of fertilizer in U.S. annually - EPA • More than 270 million pounds of toxic waste sent to 450 farms and fertilizer/chemical companies 1990-1995 - Environmental Working Group study based on TRI and SIC (1998) September 2002, Duff Wilson

  8. Types of fertilizer most likely to contain toxic metals • Micronutrients • Lime substitutes • Western phosphates • Including organic fertilizers • Hg in fish • Cd, Pb in rock phosphate September 2002, Duff Wilson

  9. Types of fertilizer most likely to contain toxic metals • Rock phosphate>sewage sludge>commercial phosphate fertilizers>organic amendments and liming materials>commercial non-phosphate fertilizers Source: Raven and Loeppert, 1997 September 2002, Duff Wilson

  10. Arsenic (As) ppm • Background level • ~6 U.S. agricultural soils • 7 Washington state • Products • 4,400 Ironite • 989 Boronat • 86 Nulife • 48 Nutrilime • 18 Diammonium phosphates September 2002, Duff Wilson

  11. Cadmium (Cd) ppm • Background level • 0.2 U.S. agricultural soils • 1 Washington state • Products • 4,506 Whatcom Farmers Co-op • 739 wood ash • 500 Stoller • 275 Blu-Min Zinc • 153 DAP • 101 Ortho Superphosphate • 97 Walt’s Organic September 2002, Duff Wilson

  12. Lead (Pb) ppm • Background level • 11 U.S. agricultural soils • 17 Washington state • Products • 29,400 Frit Industries • 20,000 Bay Zinc • 2,770 Ironite • 2,491 NuLife • 350 Nutrilime • 153 Terrene-Greens Natural Organic • 140 Vigoro September 2002, Duff Wilson

  13. Nickel (Ni) ppm • Background level • ~40 U.S. agricultural soils • 38 Washington state • Products • 303 Ortho superphosphate • 193 Western Farm • 150 Scotts Next Generation September 2002, Duff Wilson

  14. Mercury (Hg) ppm • Background level • ~0.03 U.S. agricultural soils • 0.07 Washington state • Products • 12 Ironite • 3 granular zinc • 1.8 Terrene-Greens • 0.6 NuLife Source: Wash. Dept. of Agriculture September 2002, Duff Wilson

  15. Plant uptake • Highly dependent on soil type, pH, plant species. Most uptake: acidic, sandy soils. • Liming temporarily reduces root uptake. • Extremely variable, by a factor as much as 1,000. • Heavy metals stay in topsoil unless removed by plants or wind. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  16. Plant uptake September 2002, Duff Wilson

  17. Soil scientist perspective “The transfer of Cd, Pb, As, or other heavy metals from soils to crops presents a risk to crop productivity and quality. Consumption of metal-contaminated edible parts of the crops is a risk to public health. Currently, the database available to describe the relationship between soil metal concentration and metal accumulation by plants is meager.” Kuo, et al, Washington State University, 2002 September 2002, Duff Wilson

  18. Trends in food • FDA Market Basket Survey • a rough guide, aggregated • Lead, down • Cadmium, holding even • Arsenic, holding even • World Health Organization: Current levels are already a threat to people September 2002, Duff Wilson

  19. The public health concern • WHO (1995): “Food chain transfer is the primary route of human exposure to environmental pollutants.” • There is no conclusive evidence that toxic wastes or high-cadmium phosphate in a particular product went through food to kill a particular person. But the practice increases the risk: The more you get, the more probable, the more severe, the effects will be. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  20. Most exposed populations • Fertilizer workers • Measurable, unsafe levels of lead in the blood of some fertilizer workers. • Some claim they’ve been poisoned by cadmium and dioxins. This is unproven. • Children • Small body weight • Developmental biology • Close to the ground • Latent and cumulative effects September 2002, Duff Wilson

  21. Industry response • Some companies require more tests and cleaner products: IMC, Simplot, Monsanto • TFI claims this only applies to K061, <1% of the total • Actually 2/3 of fertilizers are adding toxic chemicals to the topsoil • TFI quietly lobbied Congress on Pb rule • Haz waste recyclers on TFI Board • John Mortvedt (1985): Not a major concern as long as pH kept up. • Paid for risk assessment • Minimize and deny September 2002, Duff Wilson

  22. Semantic contortionists • What is “hazardous”? • What is “waste”? • What is “fertilizer”? September 2002, Duff Wilson

  23. Other nations • Canada (1993) – limited arsenic, cadmium, lead, chromium, copper, mercury, molybdenum, nickel and selenium in fertilizer • Allows doubling background level every 45 years • Tests every 6 months • Can ban products if not proven safe • Europe, Australia – limit cadmium September 2002, Duff Wilson

  24. Risk assessments • State of California • The Fertilizer Institute • EPA Most fertilizers probably have safe levels of toxic chemicals. Some would cause >1/100,000 excess cancers in a lifetime. More study needs to be done. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  25. Comments on risk assessments • They don’t count cumulative effects. • They don’t count many products, i.e. lime. • Shiou Kuo, Wash. St. Univ. (2002): Three-year study found cadmium in lettuce from rock phosphate and zinc fertilizer at a rate four times higher than the rate used in EPA risk assessment. • Rufus Chaney, USDA (1999): High-cadmium phosphate fertilizer with <100:1 Zn:Cd ratio is a “ticking time bomb.” • EPA: TFI/states proposal is not protective. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  26. Federal response • EPA • doesn’t want to regulate fertilizers • eliminated K061 exemption • recommends states adopt “good manufacturing practices,” not TFI “risk-based standards” (David Fagan, OSW) • USDA • doesn’t want to regulate fertilizers September 2002, Duff Wilson

  27. States’ response • Texas (1998) biosolids dose of 9 chemicals • Washington (1998): Canadian standards on 9 toxic chemicals – 45-year doubling dose • 63 product stop sales, 46 denied, 25 changed recommended application rates • 96% passed • Website • California (2002): ppm limits on 3 chemicals. Arsenic, 4-3-2. Cadmium, 6-5-4. Lead, 20 September 2002, Duff Wilson

  28. Currently pending • California squeeze (As 4[2, Cd 6[4) • AAPFCO proposals for other states September 2002, Duff Wilson

  29. Industry objects to labeling the toxic non-nutrient chemicals on the invoice or bag “Consumers wouldn’t understand” “Consumers would be scared” “There’s not enough room on the label” Consumers can see levels of 9 toxic chemicals on a State of Wash. website:www.wa.gov/agr/PestFert/Fertilizers/ProductDatabase.htm Labeling -- the right to know September 2002, Duff Wilson

  30. My idea: The Brown Seal “Cleaner than dirt” Means the product has less than the average background level of 9 priority toxic chemicals 1/3 of current products would get the Brown Seal Labeling -- the right to know September 2002, Duff Wilson

  31. Summary • Toxic chemicals in fertilizer are unlimited in 47 states. • Spreading them on the soil adds to the toxic burden. • People have the right to know what they are spreading on the soil. September 2002, Duff Wilson

  32. For more information • www.fatefulharvest.com • www.ewg.org • www.watoxics.org/tf.htm • www.epa.gov/opptintr/fertilizer.pdf Duff Wilson, dwilson@seattletimes.com September 2002, Duff Wilson