Good for groundwater – bad for crops? Plastic particles release pollutants in upper soil layers


The environmental geoscientists at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) focused on a variety of parameters that contribute to plastic pollution in farmland soils. They calculated for different scenarios whether nano- and microplastic particles transport pollutants to groundwater resources. The result shows: they do not. ( © Audrey Desaulniers, Orcéine, Montreal)

Study shows that microplastics do not contribute to the mobility of organic pollutants in agricultural soils

In agriculture, large quantities of nano- and microplastics end up in the soil through compost, sewage sludge and the use of mulching foils. The plastic particles always carry various pollutants with them. However, they do not transport them into the groundwater, as is often assumed. Environmental geoscientists led by Thilo Hofmann have now determined that the plastic particles release the pollutants in the upper soil layers: they do not generally contaminate the groundwater, but have a negative effect on soil microbes and crops. The study by the University of Vienna appears in Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Pollutants enter agricultural soils with plastic particles

Wastewater and rivers carry microplastics into the oceans. Wind distributes the particles to the remotest parts of the earth. However, agriculture itself plays a far greater role in plastic pollution of agricultural land: fertilizers such as compost manure or sewage sludge and the remains of agricultural mulching foils carry large quantities of plastic particles, so-called macro-, micro-, and nanoplastics, onto agricultural land. According to current estimates, for example, with every kilogram of sewage sludge, up to 300,000 plastic particles end up on agricultural soils - and with them pollutants. "Plastic always contains so-called additives. These additives ensure certain properties, durability or even the colour of a polymer. In addition, contaminants such as pesticides or pharmaceutical residues may become adsorbed to the plastic particles," explains Stephanie Castan, lead author of the study and PhD student at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CMESS) at the University of Vienna.

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‘Forever chemicals’ found in home fertilizer made from sewage sludge

The study’s authors checked for 33 individual PFAS compounds and found each biosolid product contained between 14 and 20. Photograph: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock
Alarming toxic PFAS levels revealed in new report raise concerns that the chemicals are contaminating vegetables

Tom Perkins
Fri 28 May 2021 05.00 EDT

Sewage sludge that wastewater treatment districts across America package and sell as home fertilizer contain alarming levels of toxic PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals”, a new report has revealed.

Sludge, which is lightly treated and marketed as “biosolids”, is used by consumers to fertilize home gardens, and the PFAS levels raise concerns that the chemicals are contaminating vegetables and harming those who eat them.

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The Poison Papers

"The “Poison Papers” represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920s. Taken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment." - from The Poison Papers

TOXIC CHEMICALS THREATEN HUMANITY’S ABILITY TO REPRODUCE


In a new book, epidemiologist Shanna Swan looks at the impact of environmental chemicals on human sexuality and reproductive systems.

by: Sharon Lerner
January 24 2021, 4:00 a.m.

SHANNA SWAN IS the senior author of a 2017 study that documented a dramatic drop in sperm counts in Western countries over the past half-century. That meta-analysis of 185 studies involving 42,935 men found that total sperm count fell 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist, pointed to the role of environmental chemicals in that trend. Now she has written “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race,” a book that ties industrial chemicals in everyday products to a wide range of changes taking place in recent years, including increasing numbers of babies born with smaller penises; higher rates of erectile dysfunction; declining fertility; eroding sex differences in some animal species; and potentially even behaviors that are thought of as gender-typical.

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Scientists Detect 55 Chemicals Never Before Reported in People – 42 “Mystery Chemicals” Whose Sources Are Unknown


TOPICS: Environment Public Health UCSF

By University of California - San Francisco March 21, 2021

Scientists at University of California San Francisco have detected 109 chemicals in a study of pregnant women, including 55 chemicals never before reported in people and 42 “mystery chemicals,” whose sources and uses are unknown.

The chemicals most likely come from consumer products or other industrial sources. They were found both in the blood of pregnant women, as well as their newborn children, suggesting they are traveling through the mother’s placenta.

The study was published on March 16, 2021, in Environmental Science & Technology.

“These chemicals have probably been in people for quite some time, but our technology is now helping us to identify more of them,” said Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF.

A former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist, Woodruff directs the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) and the Environmental Research and Translation for Health (EaRTH) Center, both at UCSF.

“It is alarming that we keep seeing certain chemicals travel from pregnant women to their children, which means these chemicals can be with us for generations,” she said.

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