Agricultural Hazardous Wastes

Industrial manufacturing is not the only industry that generates hazardous wastes, however. Enormous amounts of hazardous chemical pesticides and herbicides are used on crops by U.S. agriculture producers each year. Many of these chemicals run off into the soil and groundwater, and any materials left over are considered hazardous wastes. In some cases, too, the application of phosphate fertilizer produces fluoride wastes. Even animal manure produces concentrated nitrates that can leach into groundwater, contaminate drinking-water wells, and cause health problems.

Moreover, many farms recycle and use industrial hazardous wastes as fertilizers because, in addition to toxins, they contain nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are beneficial to plants. As reporter Patty Martin explains:

Each year, approximately 110 billion pounds of fertilizer are applied to farm fields throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, almost one-half of that total is non-nutrient material of unknown composition. The fertilizer industry has acknowledged that about 150 million pounds of hazardous waste end up in the agricultural system each year—wastes from steel mills, tanneries, film processors, and coal-fired power plants that are "recycled," supposedly to provide some benefits to crops without regard for the contaminants "along for the ride." Some of these wastes carry toxins such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, uranium, nickel, chromium, and dioxins.30

This use of hazardous waste in fertilizer, critics say, is permissible because of loopholes in current EPA regulations and many state regulatory systems.

Another fertilizer source is sewage sludge, which may contain dangerous levels of pathogens, as well as PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, asbestos, industrial solvents, petroleum products, radioactive

A farmer inspects a dead patch of afield caused by sewage sludge used as a fertilizer Many farms like this one use industrial hazardous wastes as fertilizers because, in addition to toxins, they contain nutrients that are beneficial to plants. One fertilizer source in particular is sewage sludge, which may contain dangerous levels of pathogens.

A farmer inspects a dead patch of afield caused by sewage sludge used as a fertilizer Many farms like this one use industrial hazardous wastes as fertilizers because, in addition to toxins, they contain nutrients that are beneficial to plants. One fertilizer source in particular is sewage sludge, which may contain dangerous levels of pathogens.

material, and heavy metals. And these toxins can also be found in some fertilizers sold for use in home gardens because these products do not have to be labeled to reveal their hazardous content.

The agriculture industry claims that toxic materials are not being absorbed into food products, but critics believe otherwise. They point to dramatic increases in the amount of arsenic in toddlers' diets, as well as increases in asthma, cancers, birth defects, and developmental disabilities—all of which are increasingly thought to be linked to environmental toxins found in the human food chain.

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  • patricia
    How to manage agricultural hazardous waste?
    2 years ago

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