Existing risk assessments and new research continue to show low risk to human health and the environment from using biosolids as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. To build upon this data NW Biosolids and King County, in partnership with the University of Washington and Kennedy/Jenks consultants, conducted a risk analysis on compounds from pharmaceuticals and personal care products, called “trace organics” or “microconstituents”. The risk assessment found that the tiny tiny amounts of these chemicals in biosolids will not cause negative health effects (Kennedy/Jenks, 2015). In fact, you would have to have direct contact with biosolids for more lifetimes than you would ever live before getting the equivalent of one daily dose.
Research is the key to finding practical solutions for biosolids. Decades of research show biosolids are safe for soils, plants, and people.
Will you live to be 1,000 years old?
If you live beyond 1,000 years, you’ll get a dose of just 2 ibuprofen from being around biosolids.
Hungry for biosolids?
You’d have to eat 5 buckets of straight biosolids before you would get one dose of birth control. That’s a lot of biosolids, and it’s pretty unlikely anyone could do such a thing, even if they wanted to.
Biosolids research has been going on for more than 40 years.
In the Pacific Northwest, biosolids research has been funded for decades. In 2014, Washington State University, in cooperation with Oregon State University and the University of Washington, completed their 20th year in a long running study on biosolids in Eastern Washington. Are biosolids sustainable? Farmers sure think so, and this study’s scientific data agreed.
Are biosolids a risk to human health? Research says no.
Biosolids and Biofuels
In the face of climate change, biofuels can provide new green fuels to help power our cars and economies. Ethanol made from biofuel crops such as switchgrass can be an alternative fuel for cars, homes, and other uses. But biofuels are made from plants, and sometimes plants need to be fertilized. Synthetic fertilizer requires a lot of energy to create, while making biosolids often produces renewable energy. The University of Washington found that using biosolids instead of synthetic fertilizer reduced the energy costs of switchgrass production and was a climate friendly option.
Fly, fly away
Anyone who’s been to Eastern Washington has seen dust funnels dotting the landscape. Does using biosolids as a fertilizer and soil builder help reduce erosion in this windy area? Farmers think so, but Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service have a new experiment to find out for sure. Stay tuned for their results!