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Are Your Vegetables on Drugs?


A new study conducted on zucchini plants suggests that pharmaceuticals in biosolid fertilizers could be harming your veggies.

By Natasha Gilbert on October 22, 2015

Fertilizing crops with biosolids—a combination of human, commercial, and industrial wastes otherwise known by critics as “sewage sludge”—is a common but controversial practice.

On the one hand, municipalities argue, it is much more environmentally sound to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The use of these fertilizers also cuts down on the amount of man-made fertilizers needed to boost crops and keep soils healthy.

On the other hand, biosolids have often raised safety concerns, and the quality and safety can vary depending how they’ve been treated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards prohibit their use in organic agriculture because of concerns over contamination from hormones, steroids, and pathogens. And there has been a passionate debate over whether biosolids are safe to use because of the risk of contamination.

Despite the fact that there are many substances found in biosolids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates a few including pathogens and heavy metals. And the agency has no control over the level of pharmaceuticals in biosolids or in wastewater.

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