Wastewater Treatment Plants Spreading Neurological Disease
People are dying of neurological disease at an accelerating rate, while death rates from most major diseases are dropping. Why the divergence?
Unfortunately, a pathogen associated with neurological disease is spreading uncontrollably. Research suggests that food and water supplies around the world have been contaminated with an unstoppable form of protein known as a prion (PREE-on). Ignorance, negligence, fraud and corruption are fanning the flames today. We’re facing an environmental nightmare.
According to health officials, the epidemic will spread exponentially. The prion epidemic includes Alzheimer’s disease, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease (deer) and many others. There is no species barrier. Some people die within weeks of symptoms, while others take years. There is no cure.
At least 50 million people around the world already have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Millions of other cases are undiagnosed and misdiagnosed. Doctors have suppressed millions of other diagnoses. It’s an outrage. The epidemic is worse than the public knows.
Two groups of investigators at Rush University in Chicago independently analyzed the epidemic in a double-blind study. Both groups determined that Alzheimer’s-related mortality rates were several times higher than reflected by official figures.
With weak data in mind, the official death toll from Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. alone still increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010. Millions of additional cases went undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and misreported. The epidemic is expanding exponentially thanks to misinformation, fraud, acts of gross negligence and what appears to be deliberate attempts to put corporate profits over public health.
Pandora-like prions are out of the box and contaminating homes, communities and entire watersheds—including our food and water supplies. It’s time for government and industry to lead, follow or get out of the way of the truth and solutions.
Alzheimer’s disease is a member of an aggressive family of neurodegenerative diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” The spectrum of TSEs includes Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, mad cow and chronic wasting disease in deer. It appears that autism is part of the same spectrum. Few, if any, mammals are immune.
TSEs are unstoppable and incurable. The pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Prions have been detected in the blood, urine, mucas, feces, milk, saliva and aerosols from victims of the disease. Blood alone assures that every ounce of the victim is contaminated. As organs and tissue become infected, the body sheds more and more prions into the environment every day.
Prions also are linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans and in the brain damage of athletes like football players who have suffered repeated concussions. It appears that head trauma can trigger healthy prions to begin converting into deadly ones.
Victims of prion disease are infectious long before they appear sick. These carriers are donating blood, eating at your favorite restaurant, going to your dentist and loading public sewer systems with every flush. Unfortunately, much of the sewage is dumped where it contaminates your food and your water.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering, naming and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the rising importance of his research. Unfortunately, U.S. policy on many fronts ignores the perils of prions. Most countries are guilty of the same offense.
When the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, it included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories. It classified prions as select agents that pose an extreme risk to food, water and more. It was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, industry pressure convinced the Center For Disease Control to quietly take prions off the list of special agents two years ago. Keeping prions listed threatened to outlaw several multi-billion dollar industries. The reversal kept the floodgates open to the prion threat. Especially regarding sewage treatment and land application, agriculture and water reclamation industries.
The problem with prions is that they linger in the environment infinitely because they defy all attempts at sterilization and inactivation. Unlike viruses or bacteria, prions are not alive. Therefore, they can’t be killed. Victims contaminate cups, dishes, utensils, air and much more with just their saliva, mucas, cough or sneeze. Items exposed are hopelessly contaminated. Victims visit doctors and dentists every day. Some have surgery.
Unfortunately, surgical and dental instruments used on these victims are hopelessly contaminated. People have contracted prion disease from contaminated surgical instruments. Hospitals have been successfully sued because of the proven exposure. Now, medical instruments are thrown away after being used on patients with known prion disease.
If it’s impossible to stop prions in an operating room, it’s impossible to stop them in the challenging environment of a wastewater treatment system.
Prions spread uncontrollably and contaminate everything that they touch—much like radiation. Unlike radiation, however, prions do not deplete themselves. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen. The human prion is resistant to both heat and chemicals and is reported to be up to a hundred thousand times more difficult to deactivate than prions from most animals.
Prion diseases are killing humans, wildlife and livestock around the world today. It’s been gaining momentum over the past century. So has mismanagement by government, some researchers and industry.
The prion problem is getting worse with rising populations, rising concentrations of people, intensive agriculture, reckless sewage disposal policies and other mismanaged pathways. As the epidemic strikes more people, the pathways for prion exposure explode and intensify. Reckless sewage disposal policies and practices alone are putting billions of innocent people in the crossfire right now. Entire watersheds are endangered thanks to a deadly pathogen that migrates, mutates and multiplies.
“The brain diseases caused by prions includes Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and other disorders known as frontotemporal dementias,” said Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner.
The TSE epidemic represents an environmental nightmare that threatens every mammal on Earth. Related diseases are killing wildlife and livestock around the world. Marine mammals also are vulnerable.
Prion disease is a spectrum disease. Some prions can kill people within weeks of exhibiting clinical symptoms, while others take years. Other people may not fall victim to the disease, but they can carry the pathogen internally and externally after exposure. Pathway management and pathway aversion are critical if we hope to save mammals on land and at sea.
Doctors Mismanaging Diagnoses
Since prion disease is a spectrum disease, doctors can’t tell the difference between them. The only definitive diagnosis of a prion disease comes with an autopsy. Autopsies, however, are rarely conducted because of concerns over deadly contamination. A corpse with prion infection will contaminate all tools used by coroners and morticians. Meanwhile, fluids and liquefied organs from these bodies are dumped into the sewage system—destined for your wastewater treatment plant and then some poor farmer’s cornfield and dairy farm.
All doctors are guessing with each Alzheimer’s, CJD or Parkinson’s diagnosis based on the severity of the symptoms. Doctors are withholding millions of additional diagnoses from patients and their families. Regardless of the motive, this censorship puts an unbearable load on families both emotionally and financially. It also puts caregivers in harm’s way, while insulating healthcare companies from expensive patient treatment and care. If healthcare companies tackle the full brunt of the Alzheimer’s epidemic, it will bankrupt them within the next five years. They will continue outrunning claims as long as possible.
Since doctors are essentially guessing on each victim, Alzheimer’s diagnoses are wrong at least 20 percent of the time. Those cases typically are further up the prion-disease spectrum under the term Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). CJD is a more severe and extremely contagious mutation of prion disease.
Unfortunately for caregivers and family members, the protocol for patient care and caregiver safety is vastly different for Alzheimer’s patients versus CJD patients. This mismanagement puts many stakeholders at risk.
It’s reckless to try to distinguish between prion diseases on the spectrum. The medical community should treat people with Alzheimer’s disease as though they have CJD—as though they are highly contagious. Family members and other caregivers should be warned accordingly. Caregivers of those with dementia are six times more likely to contract prion disease than someone who is not a caregiver.
Pissing In The Pool
Although there are many causes and pathways contributing to the prion disease epidemic, many pathways are being mismanaged, including sewage, biosolids and reclaimed wastewater. As stated earlier, blood, saliva, mucus, urine, feces, milk and cell tissue all carry infectious prions. These human discharges are flushed down toilets and sinks billions of times every day. We all have flushed away toxic or infectious waste that we would never throw on our garden or in our water well. The magic wand at the sewage treatment plant doesn’t phase most of these elements. It obviously doesn’t phase flesh-eating bacteria, either.
Sewage treatment plants can’t detect or stop prions in municipal waste streams. Despite this important technical detail, we’re dumping tons of infectious sewage on crops, gardens, pastures, golf courses, playgrounds and open spaces in our forests every day. Wind, rain and other natural dynamics put the sewage right back into our air, food and water supplies.
Spreading sewage sludge, biosolids, and reclaimed wastewater anywhere is a risk. Dumping them directly into our food and water is reckless, incompetent and criminal. We’re dumping prions into our lifecycle by the trainloads daily. Every nation is guilty.
To be precise, people with Alzheimer’s or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have used every sewage system in the world for years, which means that these systems all are hopelessly contaminated with prions. The problem intensifies with the addition of new prions and the exponential growth of existing ones in the sewage treatment system. The sewage from hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses, morgues, mortuaries and other high-risk places enters the same sewage treatment system.
The condensed sludge from all of these places is then dumped on our farms and ranches by the truckload. Plastic packaging and other large items are often visible in this waste, which means that treatment is extremely minimal. If the Pope waved his hand over the sewage, it would likely receive better treatment than what we see today. Nothing stops a prion, but you would hope that billions of dollars of wastewater treatment technology would at least take out pill bottles, syringes, needles and used prophylactics.
Thanks to more and more people dying from TSEs, sewage systems are more contaminated with prions than ever. Wastewater treatment plants are now prion incubators and distributors. Sewage sludge, wastewater reuse, biosolids and other sewage byproducts are biohazards causing bioterror. Thanks to questionable policymakers and profiteers, you are eating and drinking from your neighbor’s toilet–and the toilets at the local nursing home and hospital. We might as well dump sewage out of windows again.
Thanks to more and more sewage mismanagement, we’re dumping more deadly prions on farms and ranches than ever. The wastewater industry and their consultants have convinced agricultural operations around the world that sewage and biosolids are safe, effective and profitable for all involved.
As it turns out, today’s sewage isn’t safe. Sewage sludge isn’t an effective fertilizer. The business is profitable, though—until the sickness and disease sets in for the farmers, workers and the consumers. Until the land is condemned for being hopelessly contaminated—making everyone downstream sick.
Exposing crops and livestock to prions is a very bad idea. Plants absorb prions from the treated soil along with ordinary water uptake, which makes the prions bioavailable and infectious to humans, wildlife and livestock in yet another way. We might as well inject deadly prions into our veins.
In addition to uptake from the soil and water, plants also are contaminated through contact with biosolids. Rain can splash the death dust up on stalks and leaves, which contaminates them from the outside. People, livestock and wildlife are exposed to neurological disease just by consuming food grown in sewage sludge. The more consumed, the greater the risk. Utensils used in the harvesting, processing, cooking and eating of these crops also are permanently contaminated.
Meat and milk from livestock raised on pastures treated with sewage sludge are at risk of carrying prions. Livestock that graze on these dumping grounds can pull prions up directly from the soil as part of their daily grazing. Grains and grass grown in sewage sludge and then fed to livestock is a risk and a possible prion pathway. Such exposure can turn these animals into incubators and distributors of prions.
People and predators that consume infected animals are at risk. Prions appear to mutate and become more deadly as they move up the food chain through consumption. Prions from people are the most deadly and the most difficult to stop.
Prions are not the only ingredient in sewage that threatens food and water safety. Heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, flesh-eating bacteria, radioactive waste, Zika virus and other deadly cocktails await dispersal to innocent bystanders.
Once sewage is dumped on crops and grazing land, the damage isn’t done. Rain, irrigation and wind proceed to spread the prions and other contaminants throughout our communities, watersheds and into our oceans. Dumping tons of sewage from millions of people on farms and ranches spreads the prion pathogen far and wide. It’s a vicious case of Pandora’s lunchbox. We can avoid some of the prion risk by eating foods that are organic. Fruits and vegetables grown in sewage sludge cannot be legally labeled as certified organic.
Profits, Prions and Peons
Thanks to prions, sewage management has become more of a nightmare than ever. Getting it out of our food and water will not be easy. Europe alone spends more than 2.2 billion euros every year to get sewage sludge out of the cities. Unfortunately, about 60 percent of the crap is dumped on agriculture and landscaping around homes and offices. Disposing of it safely would cost billions more.
Finland and Sweden are top offenders in Europe regarding sewage dumped inappropriately. People there live and play near the Baltic Sea, which is one of the most polluted bodies of water on the planet. Sewage mismanagement generates most of that pollution. Sewage is polluting their food and water supplies. As a result, Finland has the highest rate of Alzheimer’s deaths in the world. Sweden is third. Norway just became the first nation in Europe to detect chronic wasting disease in wildlife. The entire Baltic region is a sewage nightmare.
The United States has the fourth-highest death rate from Alzheimer’s in the world. Washington State is off the charts. Like Finland, it has a long history of sewage mismanagement. It dumps sewage on crops, near rivers and upstream in forests. It drains back into the rivers, streams. lakes, coves and bays where so many people live, play, eat and drink.
Public servants are making questionable decisions regarding public health on many levels. Innocent people and animals are paying the price.Wisconsin is another interesting case history. Almost every county in Wisconsin has helped get rid of sewage sludge and biosolids. Now, the state’s deer herd is being decimated by prion disease. The epidemic is being mismanaged on many levels. Prion-laced sewage and sick deer pose a serious threat to Wisconsin’s multi-billion dollar dairy herd. Of course, people are exposed, too.
California produces a significant amount of the U.S. food supply. Los Angeles, for example, ships a huge amount of its sewage sludge where crops abound. Arizona also is a favorite dumping ground for California’s largest cities. Cropland near Yuma is a favorite target. Open space in the Phoenix metro area also has been targeted with California’s latest export.
Thanks to sewage from California, Arizona also has one of the highest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. Windstorms in the desert carry much more than sand and dust. Sewage sludge particles are part of every dust cloud that sweeps over Phoenix, Tucson and beyond. Then homeowners and their landscapers take turns blowing it back and forth across the street with dust blowers. As a result, the region is plagued by a mystery respiratory illness called valley fever. It’s wicked. The virus never leaves your body.
These are just a few examples of sewage mismanagement and the human threat. It’s happening somewhere near you. Sewage mismanagement in agriculture is a direct assault on the landowners, investors, workers, livestock, neighbors downstream and downwind and consumers. Crops, poultry, dairy, meat and water all are vulnerable to the prion threat.
Despite the unstoppable risk that sewage and prions represent to agriculture, testing for mad cow disease is very weak in most countries. In fact, the USDA reduced BSE testing in 2003 after finding the third mad cow. Out of about 35 million animals slaughtered annually, only 35,000 are tested for the deadly disease. Despite reduced testing, 22 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., so far. Another 20 cases have been confirmed in Canada. Japan, by contrast, tests every cow killed for consumption. Mad cow disease is not an isolated event. It’s impossible to contain. It’s just the tip of an iceberg.
The prion risk in dairy cattle is another issue. Most, if not all cases of mad cow disease in the U.S. and other countries have been dairy cattle, so such research seems logical. Beef cattle rarely live long enough to exhibit symptoms of mad cow disease. Dairy cattle often live much longer, which increases their exposure to prions and it gives them more time to become visibly sick. It also gives them more time and opportunity to contribute milk to the food supply.
Prions have been found in the milk of mammals, but no one has been allowed to test for prions in the milk of cattle. Given the enormous influence of the dairy industry, research on dairy milk, cheese and prions will probably never happen. Prion behavior observed in other species, however, confirms the risk.
At the beginning of 1985, the world had never heard of mad cow disease. Public concern quickly gained momentum once the epidemic was exposed. At first, the U.K. government and industry insiders tried to cover up the threat. Politicians and regulators were more than willing to cast fate to the wind regarding public health.
The U.K. killed almost 200,000 cattle in an attempt to eradicate the disease. Thousands of carcasses were burned and others were buried in pits. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to eradicate prion disease because of the perpetual environmental pathways. Cases continue to arise, but testing has been rendered ineffective at best. Ireland just confirmed a new case of the disease in June 2015. Ireland was ground zero during the first mad cow crisis 30 years ago.
In the past, most infected cattle got the disease from eating feed made from the ground up blood, fat and bones of dead cattle. Once they fed a mad cow back to these vegetarian herds, the contagion spread like wildfire. Diet is a proven source of exposure to prion disease. Food and water contaminated by sewage may have contributed to that initial outbreak in 1985.
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how many infected cattle were slaughtered and consumed by innocent families. That’s one of the weaknesses of the global food production systems. That’s one of the reasons that it’s vital to keep prions out of agriculture.
Scientific Research Ignored
Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them with prions. Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues recently found human prions in urine.
Soto also confirmed that plants uptake prions and are infectious and deadly to those who consume such plants. Therefore, humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via plants grown on land treated with sewage sludge and reclaimed sewage water.
Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infective in certain soils. Pedersen’s research also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage and its byproducts are dumped.
“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said. “Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”
Over the past 30 years, there has been a great deal of research to better understand the fate of toxins and pathogens in biosolids when applied to crops and grazing land. Much of that research is taking place today in an open laboratory, on innocent citizens in thousands of communities around the world. Unfortunately, they aren’t willing participants.
The Sludge Rule
In the United States, the EPA began regulating sewage sludge under the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act to prevent biosolids from contaminating waterways. In 1977, Congress asked EPA to:
- Identify alternatives for biosolids use and disposal;
- Specify what factors must be accounted for in determining the methods and practices applicable to each of these identified uses; and
- Identify concentrations of pollutants that would interfere with each use.
In 1978, the EPA limited concentrations of cadmium, PCBs and pathogens. In 1987, Congress told EPA to identify possible toxins in biosolids, including limits necessary to protect public health and environment. Congress asked the EPA to develop regulations for biosolids.
The Standards for the Use and Disposal of Sewage Sludge, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Part 503 was promulgated in 1993. It’s known as the sludge rule. It’s the environmental equivalent of Catch-22.
The sludge rule gives EPA the right to push sludge-control authority to each state, with minimal guidance. Thanks to the pro-industry sludge rule, sewage sludge is mismanaged in every state, while contributing to water contamination and other reckless public health exposures across the nation. Instead of helping the nation speak with one voice and the voice of reason, EPA created a new episode of Keystone Cops.
Americans have been told to eat shit and die. Literally. So have most people in the world.
According to the U.S. EPA, “Prions are extremely resistant to inactivation by ultraviolet light, irradiation, boiling, dry heat, formaline, freezing, drying and changes in pH. Methods for inactivating prions in infected tissues or wastes include incineration at very high temperatures and alkaline hydrolysis.” They didn’t mention hydrogen peroxide, which is how some toilet-to-tap programs hope to kill deadly prions.
The EPA National Water Research Compendium 2009-2014 lists prions eight times as an emerging contaminant of concern in sewage sludge (biosolids), water and manure. The EPA issued what it calls the “Sludge Rule,” which basically disclaims any responsibility for its questionable risk assessments regarding biosolids. The EPA reserves the right to adjust these risk assessments, however, as the test of time disproves its pseudo-science.
Even the EPA’s own internal audit found that the agency is dropping the ball on sewage regulation and management. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (OIG) sewage regulations are weak, outdated and not enforced. In September 2014, the OIG offered the following summary of its findings:
“Management controls put in place by the EPA to regulate and control hazardous chemical discharges from sewage treatment plants to water resources have limited effectiveness. The EPA regulates hazardous chemical discharges to and from sewage treatment plants, but these regulations are not effective in controlling the discharge of hundreds of hazardous chemicals to surface waters such as lakes and streams.
Sewage treatment plant staff do not monitor for hazardous chemicals discharged by industrial users. This is due to a general regulatory focus on the priority pollutants list that has not been updated since 1981, limited monitoring requirements, limited coordination between EPA offices, a lack of tracking hazardous waste notifications required for submittal by industrial users, or a lack of knowledge of discharges reported by industrial users under the Toxics Release Inventory. Except for EPA Region 9, sewage treatment plant permits generally include very few monitoring requirements or effluent limits, which can limit enforcement actions. The EPA developed whole effluent toxicity test results as a mechanism to identify toxic chemicals such as hazardous discharges to sewage treatment plants. However, these are not required for all permits, and are not tracked by the EPA to verify that sewage treatment plants are reporting results as required. Moreover, exceedances of chemical limits in permits and toxicity tests do not trigger notification to enforcement programs. Consequently, the EPA may not be aware of chemical discharge or toxicity exceedances that should be addressed to minimize potentially harmful contamination of water resources.”
Today, Americans generate about 182 gallons of wastewater per person per day. Approximately 7.1 million tons of sewage sludge are generated each year from the treatment process at the more than 16,000 municipal wastewater treatment facilities across the country. Thanks to the EPA’s infamous sludge rule, approximately 55 percent of the sludge is dumped on land as fertilizer and soil amendment. The U.S. might soon become the world’s leader in neurological disease with this type of misguided leadership.
Fortunately, citizens are rising up to defend themselves. The Town Board in Wheatfield, New York, for example unanimously voted in July 2014 to ban any application of sewage sludge and other similar materials from the treatment of municipal wastewater to any land in town. The law reasons that the potential contamination of groundwater, surface water, and soil, as well as the potential for air pollution, poses an unreasonable risk to town residents, public health, and the environment.
Residents of the Nicola Valley in British Columbia are protesting the dumping of sewage sludge on their lands now. The five First Nations chiefs of the Nicola Valley took their fight against biosolids to the B.C. legislature. The group is calling on the government to stop importing sewage sludge from the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan and dumping them on their ancestral lands.
“When it comes to biosolids, the government ignores and the government completely disregards, our rights protected by the constitution,” said Chief Aaron Sam.
Nicola Valley residents have maintained a blockade to prevent trucks from transporting more sewage sludge in and dumping it on their land. The facts are on their side. Independent testing shows biosolids do contaminate Nicola Valley lands and waters. The testing facilitated by the David Suzuki Foundation shows that samples of biosolids taken from the Nicola Valley contained alarmingly high amounts of dangerous toxins, including Copper, Mercury, Tin and Zinc.
“The independent tests confirm that biosolids must not be applied to land,” said Sam. “Biosolids contaminate our lands and waters, and it has serious potential negative effects on fish, animals and plants, First Nations people are reliant on the land for food and medicines. Biosolids put the health of our community members at risk. We can no longer sit back while the Government of British Columbia ignores our constitutionally protected rights to our title and rights.”
In 2009, the U.S. EPA released the results from its Targeting National Sewage Sludge Survey (TNSSS), which measures chemical concentrations in land-based biosolid application areas. The results are striking. Out of 84 samples:
- 27 metals are found in virtually every sample with antimony found in no less than 72 samples;
- Of six semi-volatile organics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), four are found in 72 samples, one is found in 63 samples and one found in 39 samples;
- Of 72 pharmaceuticals, three (i.e. ciprofloxacin, diphenhydramine, and triclocarban) are found in all 84 samples, nine are found in at least 80 samples;
- Of 25 steroids and hormones, three steroids are found in 84 samples and six are found in 80 samples; and,
- All flame retardants, except one, are found in nearly every sample.
Over the past 30 years, a significant body of research has been compiled on the organic chemical contaminants in land applied biosolids that support these findings. While the focus has ranged from persistent organic pollutants, such as chlorinated dioxins/ furans, to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides, heavy metals, PCBs, and pharmaceutical contaminants, only dioxins have been assessed by EPA. While they took no action based on the assessment, they determined that risks were below the levels of action.
Many of the crops grown in biosolids have higher concentrations of heavy metals. The regulatory pitfalls are outlined by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This group reports that there are major data gaps in the science underlying current rules, as well as a lack of epidemiologic studies on exposed populations, and inadequate programs to ensure compliance with biosolid regulations.
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA is required to review existing biosolid regulations every two years in order to identify pollutants that need to be regulated. However, EPA has only researched a fraction of the chemicals that are known to exist in sludge and, of those researched, only some have risk assessments. NRC concludes that EPA’s biosolids risk-assessment and regulatory process is cumbersome and slow, with large information gaps on complex pathogenic interactions, and ignoring important secondary transmission pathways.
For now, organic certification is the last safe haven from biosolids for consumers. Farms that are USDA organic certified are prohibited from applying biosolids under the National Organic Standards Rule.
When the proposed Rule first came out in 1997, EPA feared that it would deter new users from using biosolids as a fertilizer and pressed the USDA to exempt biosolids from the ruling. In 1998, USDA released proposed organic standards that would allow bioengineered crops, irradiation, and sewage sludge in organic production. USDA reconsidered and prohibited the controversial elements in the final rule.
We know that biosolids have a complex array of biological pathogens, chemical contaminants, pharmaceuticals, hormones/steroids, and emerging contaminants that are not completely eliminated by waste water treatment plants. The land application of biosolids should be abandoned immediately, since the current regulatory restrictions and biosolids treatment programs allow for ongoing contamination of the environment, which threatens human health.
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