Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of Georgia researchers link increased risk of illness to sewage sludge used as fertilizer

30.07.2002


Burning eyes, burning lungs, skin rashes and other symptoms of illness have been found in a study of residents living near land fertilized with Class B biosolids, a byproduct of the human waste treatment process.



This study is the first linking adverse health effects in humans to the land application of Class B biosolids to be published in a medical journal. It was co-authored by David Lewis, a UGA research microbiologist also affiliated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s National Exposure Research Laboratory; David Gattie, assistant professor of agricultural engineering at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Marc Novak, a research technician at UGA’s School of Marine Sciences; Susan Sanchez, assistant professor of veterinary medicine at UGA; and Charles Pumphrey, a physician from Prime Care of Sun City in Menifee, Calif. The article appeared this month in the British medical journal, BMC Public Health.

Researchers found that affected residents lived within approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) of land application sites and generally complained of irritation after exposure to winds blowing from treated fields. A prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus infections, a condition commonly accompanying diaper rash, was found in the skin and respiratory tracts of some individuals. Approximately 25 percent of the individuals surveyed were infected, and two died. The 54 individuals surveyed lived near 10 land application sites in Alabama, California, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Texas. S. aureus is commonly found in the lower human colon and tends to invade irritated or inflamed tissue.


"The EPA did not consider S. aureus to be a significant public health risk even though it is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and is commonly found in sewage," said Lewis. "When approving sludge for use as a fertilizer, EPA looked at chemical and pathogen risks separately without considering that certain chemicals could increase the risk of infection."

Chemicals such as lime, which is added during sludge processing, can irritate the skin and respiratory tract and make people more susceptible to infection, according to Lewis. The American Chemical Society recently published another article on pathogen risks from sludge by Lewis and Gattie in their journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Though modern treatment can eliminate more than 95 percent of the pathogens, enough remain in the concentrated Class B sludge leaving treatment plants to pose a health risk, according to Lewis and Gattie.

On July 2, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that there may be public health risks from using processed sewage sludge as a commercial fertilizer. Approximately 60 percent of an estimated 5.6 million tons of dry sludge is used or disposed of annually in the United States.

The NAS report entitled "Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practices" cites growing allegations that exposure to Class B sludge, the most common form, is causing illnesses and sporadic deaths among residents. The report concludes that certain types of exposure, such as inhalation of sludge particles, "were not adequately evaluated" previously and no work has been done on risks from mixtures of pathogens and chemicals found in sludge. In 1989, an EPA study found 25 groups of pathogens in sludge, including bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella; viruses, including hepatitis A; intestinal worms; harmful protozoa; and fungus.

Sludge also includes traces of household chemicals poured down drains, detergents from washing machines, heavy metals from industry, synthetic hormones from birth control pills, pesticides, and dioxins, a group of compounds that have been linked to cancer.

Fertilization of land with processed sewage sludge, or "biosolids," has become common practice in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Local governments, however, are increasingly restricting or banning the practice in response to residents reporting adverse health effects.

"Most people are not aware this is going on in the U.S.," said Gattie. "Most people don’t realize that a concentrated sludge of waste products is being processed into a cheap commercial fertilizer and applied to fields near our homes. ’Biosolids’ does not connote ’sewage’ to most people." He notes this practice has become more common after ocean dumping of sewage was prohibited.

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Scientists re-create brain neurons to study obesity and personalize treatment
20.04.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>