Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, email@example.com
Jeff Gearhart, Ecology Center, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new report released today found concerning levels of toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) found in home garden fertilizer products widely sold throughout the United States. The report, based on testing conducted by the Sierra Club and the Ecology Center, found PFAS chemicals in nine fertilizers made from sewage sludge -- commonly called “biosolids” in ingredient lists -- and maps more than 30 companies selling sludge-based fertilizers and composts for home use across the US. Eight of the nine products exceed the screening guideline for PFOS or PFOA set in Maine, the state with the strictest safeguards for PFAS levels in sludge spread on agricultural lands.
PFAS are “forever chemicals” that don’t break down in the environment and are highly toxic to people. They are virtually unregulated by the US government, meaning that industries are legally allowed to flush PFAS chemicals down wastewater drains where they settle out in the solid materials during wastewater treatment. Across the US, sewage sludge is frequently spread on farmland, pastures, and sold to home gardeners as a source of fertilizer deemed to be a “beneficial reuse.” But PFAS residues in sludge-based materials have been found to contaminate farms and dairies as well as water resources. The test findings highlight the urgent need to keep toxic chemicals like PFAS out of the wastewater system and biosolids. Ultimately, the authors write, PFAS must be prohibited from use in consumer and industrial products, with only limited exceptions for currently unavoidable uses.
Read the full report here.
Report authors and experts issued the following statements:
“EPA and states must take swift action to enact strong standards to safeguard us from toxic PFAS continuing to flow into our wastewater and keep contaminated sewage wastes out of home gardens and farm lands,” said Sonya Lunder, Senior Toxics Policy Advisor for the Sierra Club. “While chemical companies have profited handsomely from PFAS chemistry, our drinking water, farms, dairies and the American public have paid the price.”
“Finding PFAS in home fertilizers shows how these chemicals end up back in our lives even when we think they’ve been disposed of. There is no ‘away’ for PFAS. The only truly effective way to stop the cycle and protect our food and water supply is to end most uses of PFAS,” said Gillian Miller, Senior Staff Scientist for the Ecology Center of Michigan. “As we’ve argued before, Michigan lawmakers and manufacturers have an opportunity to take the lead in stopping the flow of PFAS waste into our environment.”
“Around the country home gardeners are unintentionally purchasing fertilizers, compost and topsoil marketed as ‘natural,’ ‘eco-friendly’ or even ‘organic’ but containing a cocktail of persistent and harmful industrial chemicals,” said Christy McGillivray, Legislative and Political Director of Sierra Club Michigan. “Sewage sludge cannot be used as a fertilizer on certified organic crops, so if you wish to keep your home garden organic, use fertilizers and composts that are not made from sewage waste.”
"Every week we learn of another way that PFAS chemicals contaminate our bodies and the environment around us. Enough is enough,” said Linda Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program. “The EPA needs to take immediate action to prevent the reckless contamination of our food and water, soil and air by limiting the use of PFAS chemicals wherever possible."
Telepresser details below.
What: Report authors and experts to discuss PFAS sewage sludge report findings and answer questions.
When: Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at 11 a.m. ET
Where: 800-459-5343 or 203-518-9553, passcode: 59241
Who: Speakers include:
Sonya Lunder, Senior Toxics Advisor at the Sierra Club
Gillian Miller, Senior Staff Scientist for the Ecology Center of Michigan
Linda Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.