Sewage sludge in agriculture – the effects of selected chemical pollutants and emerging genetic resistance determinants on the quality of soil and crops – a review

In line with sustainable development principles and in order to combat climate change, which contributes to progressive soil depletion, various solutions are being sought to use treated sewage sludge as a soil amendment to improve soil quality and enrich arable soils with adequate amounts of biogenic compounds. This review article focuses on the effects of the agricultural use of biosolids on the environment. The article reviews the existing knowledge on selected emerging contaminants in treated sewage sludge and describes the impact of these pollutants on the environment and living organisms based on 183 publications selected from over 16,000 papers on related topics published over the last ten years. This study deals not only with chemical contaminants but also genetic determinants of resistance to these compounds. Current research has questioned the agricultural use of biosolids due to the presence of mutual interactions between antibiotics, heavy metals, the genetic determinants of resistance (antibiotic resistance genes - ARGs and heavy metal resistance genes - HMRGs) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as the risks associated with their transfer to the environment. This study emphasizes the need for more extensive legal regulations that account for other pollutants of environmental concern (PEC), particularly in countries where sewage sludge is applied in agriculture most extensively. Future research should focus on more effective methods of eliminating PEC from sewage sludge, especially from the sludge that is used to fertilize agricultural land, because even small amounts of these micropollutants can have serious implications for the health and life of humans and animals.

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