TOXICS INFORMATION PROJECT (TIP)
Tel. 401-351-9193, E-Mail: TIP@toxicsinfo.org
(Lighting the way to Less Toxic Living)
WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
Sewage sludge is prized by many gardeners and
farmers as a rich fertilizer. But
environmental groups have long questioned the safety of the material, which may
contain dangerous chemicals such as dioxin.
The panel, led by Thomas Burke of
"There is a serious lack of health-related information about populations exposed to treated sewage sludge," Burke said. "To ensure public health protection, the EPA should investigate allegations of adverse health effects and update the science behind its chemical and pathogen standards." For example, chemicals in sewage sludge may be absorbed by vegetables or affect water quality, the report said.
Ellen Harrison, a
EPA REVIEWING STANDARDS
The EPA said that the panel could not find any documented scientific evidence that federal sludge standards did not protect the public. Still, Ben Grumbles, deputy assistant director of EPA's water office, admitted there were "gaps" in the science behind the agency's sludge standards and that the EPA was reviewing them. "The (sludge) program could benefit from updating and strengthening the scientific underpinnings," he said.
"In my personal opinion, I am convinced that some of the situations in which people are getting sick are linked to sewage sludge," she said in an interview. "There have been no scientific investigations or documentation of health impacts by the EPA. But the lack of information doesn't mean there is a lack of health impacts," she added.
About 5.6 million tons of sewage sludge is generated
annually in the
Under EPA rules, sewage sludge must be treated at wastewater plants to destroy illness-causing bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter. However, the panel said the agency's decade-old rules do not cover emerging pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 and listeria. Both can be deadly to small children, pregnant women or people with chronic illnesses.
Two years ago, the U.S. Agriculture Department dropped a plan to allow sewage sludge in growing organic-certified fruits and vegetables after an outpouring of criticism.
Story by Julie Vorman
© Reuters News Service 2003