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

Alarming toxic PFAS levels revealed in new report raise concerns that the chemicals are contaminating vegetables

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

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.

“Spreading biosolids or sewage sludge where we grow food means some PFAS will get in the soil, some will be taken up by plants, and if the plants are eaten, then that’s a direct route into the body,” said Gillian Miller, a co-author and senior scientist with the Michigan-based Ecology Center.

The testing, conducted with Sierra Club, found the chemicals in each of nine brands of biosolids it checked, and at levels that exceed standards set for two common types of PFAS. The biosolid brands are sold at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards and Ace Hardware.

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Antibiotic-resistant GMO genes persist in sewage sludge, researchers find

Findings point to previously unknown way that bacteria may become resistant to life-saving antibiotics

Antibiotic-resistant genes that have been inserted into genetically modified food are able to withstand conventional wastewater treatments.

The findings, contained in a research paper published recently in the journal, Biotechnology and Bioengineering (see abstract below), might point to a previously unknown way that bacteria may become resistant to life-saving antibiotics. The work is based on graduate work done at Duke University by Courtney Gardner, now an assistant professor in Washington State University's (WSU) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She, along with Professor Tim Ginn in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, have recently received a 3-year, USDA grant to continue the research.

Antibiotic resistance, which bacteria adopt in response to interactions with the drugs, is increasing around the world and threatens the ability to treat many common infections and diseases.

“We determined that extracellular DNA released from digestion appears to be ubiquitous in wastewater treatment in the U.S. – it’s much more persistent in the environment than we originally thought,” said Gardner. “Historically, I think it’s likely that this probably has contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment.

“The magnitude of that contribution is still unknown — it is something we are trying to determine,” she added.

Unlike in Europe, which has largely banned the cultivation of genetically-modified crops for human consumption, GMOs are a common part of the food supply in the United States. Although the practice is becoming less common, companies have in the past added antibiotic resistant genes in their modifications as a helpful marker to differentiate genetically modified plant cells. About 130 lines of genetically modified crops contain such genes. Researchers have found that when people eat these foods, the incorporated genetic material moves through the digestive system, and that these genes can be released into the environment, including into wastewater treatment plants.

Meanwhile, half of the biosolids produced in the US after wastewater treatment are used as agricultural fertilizers every year, providing a potential pathway for moving the antibiotic resistant genes and bacteria through the environment.
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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 https://www.poisonpapers.org/the-poison-papers/


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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The Secret Science of Sewage

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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