National Sludge Alliance

NSA Public Fact Sheet 112
                                                                  Deception - Deceit - Diversion

The current lawsuit against the tobacco industry by the Attorney Generals of 25 States appears to be a diversionary
tactic in an effort to transfer liability for many human health problems from the States to the tobacco companies. As an
example, food crops and tobacco in particular, can be extremely dangerous to human health when the States allow them
to be grown on land fertilized with hazardous and toxic contaminated sewage sludge. The hazardous and toxic pollutants
in sludge disposed of in the soil as "fertilizer" are multiplied by the tobacco plant by a ratio of 11 to 20 times (plus) that
found in the soil. (1)

The use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer violates the federal prohibition against open dumping of solid waste, even
though the EPA policy which allows it has been in effect since 1979. However, EPA has made it very clear that sludge
use or disposal options are a local (state or county) determination and EPA is not responsible for any human health
problems caused by the use of sewage sludge on lawns, gardens and food crops. (Public Facts #100, #101)

Heat dried sewage sludge (which killed some pathogens) has been used as a mixture in fertilizers since 1927, when the
inorganic toxic pollutants were known as rare earths. In 1945, there were only 19 cities selling sewage sludge under
registered brand names. (2) By 1979, the EPA began promoting the use of all sewage sludges (including those
contaminated by pathogens) as beneficial use fertilizers. And, in 1980, "The Agency decided that growth of food-chain
crops need not be banned at hazardous waste land treatment facilities but rather should be carefully regulated." (3)

By 1983, the EPA decided, "- to avoid conceivable stigmatization, we are willing to re-name recycled hazardous wastes
"regulated recyclable materials." (4) And, in 1985, the "regulated recyclable materials" title was shortened to "recyclable
material"." (5) Not only that, but "---commercial hazardous waste derived fertilizers [which] would not have to undergo
chemical bonding to be exempt." from the law.

The real problem is that even though States are required to comply with the federal prohibition against open dumping of
hazardous and toxic waste, since 1981, many of the States have followed the EPA policy of allowing both hazardous
waste and toxic waste contaminated sludges to be used in or as a fertilizer on home lawns, gardens and food crop
production land without any liability.

Yet, Congressional mandated laws are very clear, all sludges from pollution control treatment plants are classified as
solid waste which must be disposed of in a sanitary landfill. EPA lists 62 inorganic and organic hazardous constituents
(pollutants) for detection monitoring in a landfill. It also lists 220 hazardous constituents which may be found in the
landfill. (40 CFR 257/258, Appendix I & II)

EPA and the States are currently operating an intense public relations campaign to gain public acceptance of
uncontrolled toxic and pathogen contaminated sewage sludge use as a fertilizer for use on lawns, gardens and food
crops. The EPA's 1993 sludge regulation (503) is based on the domestic sewage exclusion in federal law, which actually
limits the exclusion to the introduction of unregulated hazardous wastes into public owned treatment works. Still, EPA
only addresses 9 of the inorganic pollutants and PCB's (constituents) in the sewage sludge fertilizer, yet, EPA claims
that under the exclusion and regulation, n o one can be held liable for any human health or environmental damages
caused by the 126 priority toxic pollutants in the sewage sludge fertilizer as long as the sewage sludge is called a
fertilizer, even if a Superfund site is created. (Public Facts #100, #101)

A priority toxic pollutant, according to the EPA sludge regulation 503 definitions, is an organic or inorganic substance or
pathogen which, on the basis of information available to the EPA Administrator, will cause death, disease, cancer, etc.,
when exposure is either direct by inhalation, ingestion or in directly through the food chain. (503.9(t))

According to a recent article by Joel Bleifuss, editor, In These Times, April 28, 1997, the EPA and States are now
allowing the addition of radioactive hazardous waste in fertilizer for use on lawns, gardens and food crops which would
include tobacco. According to the article, EPA is allowing the clean up of a radioactive Superfund site outside Denver,
Colorado, by piping the radioactive material into the Denver sewage treatment plants where it will be mixed with sewage
sludge and sold to the public as a safe fertilizer for lawns, gardens or used by the city of Denver on food crop
production land.

Food crops take up some toxic pollutants and tobacco has long been recognized as an accumulator of Cadmium at 11
to 20 times (plus) the rate of Cadmium levels in the soil, which has been associated with the accumulation of Cadmium
in the lungs and kidney of smokers. However, when the studies were done, Cadmium was the only inorganic toxic
pollutant the EPA and scientists considered to be dangerous to human health. (1)

The one limited human health study funded by EPA in Ohio noted the build up of Cadmium in the kidney of animals
grazed on pastures fertilized with small quantities of toxic sewage sludge. The study also noted the documented transfer
of Salmonella contamination from humans, to sludge, to animals, to humans.(Public Facts #110)

If the toxics in sewage sludge can be transferred to humans through tobacco and animals through grazing on grass,
wouldn't the same hold true for food crops consumed by humans?

Actually, United States Department of Agriculture studies (1974) indicated there could be very serious problems with
tobacco grown on land where toxic sewage sludge was used because of the high uptake of Cadmium. "Chaney et al.
(84)--- observed Cd (Cadmium) content in tobacco to be 15 to 20 ppm at 1 ppm in the soil, and 45 ppm with 2 ppm Cd
in the soil." (1)

North Carolina State University studies found, "3. The bottom leaves of tobacco consistently had the highest Cd
concentrations. With tobacco grown on Norfolk soil at Ph 5.2 and 1.8 ppm Cd in the soil, the Cd content in the lower
leaves averaged 73 ppm compared to 26 ppm in leaves higher up the stalk." (1)

It was also noted in the studies that 5% to 20% of the Cd was readily transferred to the smoker during the burning of
tobacco. Furthermore, "40% to 80% (of the CD) enters the sidestream smoke which may be passively inhaled by
nonsmokers. (1)

Regulators have always used diversionary tactic to hide problems they created. As an example, due to the energy crisis
of the early 80s, buildings were closed tightly to conserve energy and tobacco smoke was the first indication of the sick
building syndrome which appeared at about the same time as pathogen contaminated sludge fertilizer was first being
promoted for use on crops. According to media reports, pathogens and toxic vapors build up in closed buildings which
do not have enough fresh air exchange. Instead of increasing the fresh air exchange in the buildings to protect public
health, smoking was banned, thereby, preventing any indication of the symptoms of the sick building. The most famous
of the sick buildings was the EPA's own headquarters.

Now the regulators have taken the concept one step further and it can be hazardous to complain about the potential
harm from hazardous and toxic waste fertilizers. Twelve states, including Texas, have passed food slander laws that was
intended to prevent anyone from making negative remarks about food products grown on land fertilized with the toxic
sewage sludge. Under the law, anyone who complains about contaminated food products could be subjected to a civil
slander lawsuit from sludge users.

Furthermore, Texas Attorney General, Dan Morales, has long recognized the health problems associated with
uncontrolled sludge use. According to an article in the El Paso Times, Oct. 3, 1992, concerning the EPA approval of
dumping New York City sludge in Sierra Blanca, Tx., "Morales said the decision means the EPA has "arbitrarily decided
not only to destroy our air, water and countryside, ----."

Yet, under the Texas law, at the time, sewage sludge was required to meet the more stringent limits of either Texas or
the State which shipped the sewage sludge. However, the Texas law was changed to delete that requirement, even
though the New York City sludge was too contaminated with toxic pollutants to be used in New York State as a fertilizer.
Furthermore, according to the EPA/WEF Biosolids Fact Sheet for the Sierra Blanca, Texas sludge dump site, the EPA,
New York City and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) have used deceptive numbers and
testing procedures to prove that the New York City sludge is a safe exceptional quality fertilizer under the EPA's part
503 regulation. According to the Fact Sheet, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida also accept the deceptive numbers and
testing procedures. These states also have food slander laws. (Public Facts #102, #103)

Yet, according to an Associated Press story in The Kansas City Star, April 27, 1997, Texas Attorney General, Dan
Morales, wants to raise the price of immunity for the tobacco industry, rather than settle for 2 or 3 billion dollars to
compensate sick smokers. According to the article, "Government figures show smoking cause $50 billion in medical
costs every year and another 50 billion in lost productivity- -but so far tobacco companies are offering to pay just $300
billion over 25 years." (p. A-8)

Where public health is concerned, Texas, like many other states, has abdicated its responsibility to protect the health of
its citizens. As an example, in 1996, the TNRCC registered a toxic sludge dump site on the water shed of the south
Texas border town of Laredo. Two Texas legislators who live in Laredo, Senator Judith Zaffirini and State
Representative Henry Cuellar, held a public meeting to fight the sludge dumping registration. However, under the
revised Texas law, the sludge dump site was legal, even though the TNRCC registration also permitted the dumping of
sludge from a drinking water treatment plant, an acknowledged violation of federal law.

During the public meeting, the TNRCC representatives acknowledged that while it registered the site, EPA was
responsible for enforcement of compliance to protect public health at the site under the part 503 sludge regulation. The
registration was later withdrawn for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Part 503 specifically
excludes drinking water sludge from being used as a fertilizer. (503.6(i))

While many states refuse to comply with federal law and protect the health of its citizens by stopping the illegal
hazardous and toxic sludge dumping on food crop production land, the lawmakers are concerned that children are not
respecting the law against underage smoking. In fact, the Texas Senate passed a bill on April 24, 1997, which makes
criminals of under age smokers. They face a $500.00 fine and could lose their drivers license for smoking or possessing
tobacco products. Senator Zaffirini, who sponsored the Bill is quoted in the Laredo Morning Times, April 28, 1997, "If
they break the law, they must be held accountable and they must be punished."

The question is, shouldn't the same rules apply to the personnel of state, municipal and federal agencies, who,
according to the documented evidence, are poisoning the children's food products and claiming they have no liability
because the sewage sludge is simply called a biosolids/fertilizer. (public Facts #100, #101, #110)


1.  Mulchi, C.L., Tobacco, Bulletin 851 March 1985, p. 35, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.
2.  Commercial Fertilizer, Collins, Gilbeart, H. Ph.D, (1955), pp. 130,131. McGraw-Hill, New York.
3.  FR 45, No. 98, Monday, May 19, 1980, p. 33207.
4.  FR 48, No. 65, Monday April 4, 1983, p. 14485.
5.  FR 50, No. 3, Friday January 4, 1985 p. 646. -LSI-