Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer

Between 1990 and 1995, U.S. companies sold 270 million pounds of toxic waste to farmers and fertilizer manufacturers, according to this report by the California Public Interest Research Group. Waste from industrial facilities can be a low-cost source of nutrients, such as zinc and iron. But in obtaining nutrients from these toxic leftovers, farmers and fertilizer manufacturers are also purchasing something they didn’t bargain for: lead, cadmium, arsenic, and a number of other highly toxic substances. What are the unforeseen consequences of turning American farms and gardens into a dumping ground for toxic waste?

This report provides an introduction to the widespread problem of toxic fertilizers in the U.S. It discusses the results of tests performed on 29 fertilizers -- in which 22 toxic metals were found -- and lists the known and suspected health effects of each metal. Read about the potential problems of insufficient EPA regulation of toxic waste in fertilizers, and the lack of labeling on fertilizer packaging. The report also provides recommendations for state and federal agencies for developing a safe policy on toxic fertilizers.