Growing food crops on sludge-amended soils: Problems with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency method of estimating toxic metal transfer

The use of sewage sludges as farm fertilizers, encouraged in recent years by changes in U.S Environmental Protection Agency policy, has raised concerns among some scientists regarding food safety and long‐term soil productivity

Murray B. McBride

2010

Scholarcy highlights

  • The use of sewage sludges as farm fertilizers, encouraged in recent years by changes in U.S Environmental Protection Agency policy, has raised concerns among some scientists regarding food safety and long‐term soil productivity
  • Each uptake coefficients was calculated as the increment of metal concentration in the edible part of the crop per unit increase of metal loading to the soil
  • The final UC estimates employed in the risk assessment are biased toward low values by a number of factors
  • These include the use of geometric means to obtain single‐point averages of UCs for each crop group evaluated, rather than using arithmetic means or probabilistic methods, a systematic analytical or contamination error apparent in the reported metal concentrations of the control crops, and the fact that most of the UC values were derived for soils with pH 6 or higher
  • For more than 50% of all the soil and cropping conditions represented in the risk assessment, the geometrically averaged Cd UC values used by the U.S EPA underestimated the actual risk posed by uptake into crops
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