For Immediate Release
Independent Scientific Testing Finds Toxic Contaminants in San Francisco's Free 'Organic Biosolids Compost'
PBDE Flame Retardants and Triclosan Found in Tests Conducted for the Food Rights Network (FRN)
plant -- distributed free to gardeners since 2007 by the San Francisco
Public Utilities Commission in their "organic biosolids compost"
giveaway program -- have found appreciable concentrations of
contaminants with endocrine-disruptive properties. These contaminants
include polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants,
nonylphenol detergent breakdown products, and the antibacterial agent
triclosan. The independent tests were conducted for the Food Rights
Networkby Dr. Robert C. Hale of the Virginia Institute of Marine
PBDEs are persistent and bioaccumulate in the environment, and
elevated levels have been found in California citizens. The average
total of the PBDE congeners tested in the compost was 731 ng/g (or ppb -
parts per billion) (dry weight basis). The congeners found closely
match those of the PentaBDE formulation, which are the congeners most
commonly found in human tissue and wildlife. PentaBDE has been banned
in Europe and its manufacture was voluntarily ended in the US in 2004,
yet exposure continues.
The antibiotic triclosan, another suspected endocrine disruptor, was
also found in the sewage sludge "compost," at an average of 1,312 ng/g
(or ppb). Last week, the Centers for Disease Control updated their
National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals and noted
that triclosan levels in people increased by over 41% between just the
years 2004 and 2006. Also last week, a scientific paper showed that
triclosan from sewage sludge can be taken up by soybean plants and
translocated into the beans themselves, then consumed by people and
Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist with Consumers Union (publisher
of Consumer Reports magazine), has reviewed the study conducted by Dr.
Hale for the Food Rights Network. Dr. Hansen told the Food Rights
Network: "Giving out sludge-based 'compost' that contains PBDEs,
triclosan, and who knows what other toxins, while calling it 'organic
compost,' knowing it would be applied to school and home gardens, is
wrong on a number of levels. Given the toxic compounds that have been
found by Dr. Hale in this San Francisco sludge product, the 'compost'
giveaway should be permanently ended by the City of San Francisco."
John Stauber is a co-founder of and adviser to the Food Rights
Network, and author of the 1995 book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You that
first exposed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) sewage sludge
disposal scam of renaming toxic sludge "biosolids" and encouraging its
use to grow food. Today, fifteen years later, half of all sewage sludge
is spread on farmland. Said Stauber: "In the face of a public protest
on March 4, 2010, the City of San Francisco temporarily suspended its
toxic sludge giveaway. The staff of the Public Utilities Commission
and Mayor Gavin Newsom have allowed Bay Area residents to become guinea
pigs in a heinous scam that has fooled gardeners into thinking they
were receiving real organic compost for their gardens, when they were
tricked into allowing the sewage sludge industry to use their gardens as
a waste dump. This must stop."
John Mayer, Bay Area resident and researcher for the Food Rights
Network, stated: "The sludge tests that the PUC released in late July,
2010, are grossly insufficient, relying on outdated science and
regulatory standards, and limited to 'priority pollutants,' a list
developed more than 30 years ago. As the Center for Food Safety noted
recently, the PUC failed to test for nanoparticles, 'antibiotics and
their degradation products, disinfectants, other antimicrobials,
steroids, hormones, and other drugs present in sewage sludge as
indicated by EPA's 2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey.' Our
ongoing investigation of this issue has shown that the Office of the
Mayor and the staff of the PUC have colluded with the national sewage
sludge lobby, Synagro corporation and other private interests to promote
and defend growing food in sewage sludge. We call upon the five PUC
Commissioners to put this issue on their public agenda for September,
and to stop allowing sludge politics to trump health, environment and
the precautionary principle in San Francisco."
The Food Rights Network is a national non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization. FRN opposes dumping sewage sludge on farms and gardens; no food should be grown in toxic sludge.