Toxic Waste in Fertilizers?

In case you needed another reason to avoid conventional fertilizers, you can add that they may contain toxic waste to the list.

EPA regulations allow fertilizer manufacturers to use fly ash which contains heavy metals in their products. “Fly ash” is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants contains contaminants like arsenic, lead, and radium. When we feed it to plants, those toxins can wash into waterways when it rains, and chances are the plants are taking up at least some of those chemicals. While the levels of these contaminants may not be significant on a per-plant basis, chemicals like lead build up in the body over time.

So, why would anyone use fly ash on crops? According to Environmental Health News, “Adding moderate amounts increases crop yields and stabilizes soils while reducing the need to throw huge quantities in landfills or holding ponds.” Coal companies save money on disposal fees, and fertilizer companies save money by adding fly ash as filler. A win-win for corporations, but not so much for consumers.

Keeping Fly Ash Our of Your Diet
Luckily, it’s not too hard to avoid conventional fertilizers in your garden and in the food you buy. There are a couple of things you can do:

1. Grow your own. When you grow your food, you control what goes on the plants. You can fertilize with compost and know exactly what’s going on your garden.

2. Know your farmer. If you can’t grow your own food, get to know the person who is. You can ask about the fertilizers they’re using and even (very politely) educate them about toxic waste in fertilizers, if you’re concerned.

3. Avoid conventional produce. Larger, conventional farms are also more likely to be treating soil with fly ash. If you can’t buy from a local, organic farmer, go for organic wherever possible.

3. Avoid the big boys. Larger corporations like Monsanto and N-Viro are more likely to use fly ash in their fertilizers. I couldn’t find information about whether fly ash is allowed in organic fertilizers, but some companies like ChickGro specifically say that they don’t use fly ash in their fertilizer.

Image Credit: Fertilizer photo via Thinkstock

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.

26 comments

Emil Perera
Emil Perera4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

We plant a small garden in our back yard. We set up a compost pile behind the garage. I am amazed how rich the soll is that comes out of it.

Sandra H.
Gary Quile4 years ago

I have grave concerns about the atomic waste being dumped into fertilizers and shipped across the country. Many counties continue to certify atomic waste dump ponds year after year as "safe". Remember full well that big business does not care about your health!

Victoria Pitchford
Vicky P.4 years ago

yuck

George Marshall
George Marshall4 years ago

Ok, folks, either you believe the EPA or you do not. In two separate staudies, the EPA has stated that there is no environmental danger to fly ash. And we have to stop knocking fertilizer.If properly used, it is beneficial, in that it provides higher yields of food. A reason why our food is so cheap.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson4 years ago

Compost!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago

Thanks.

Darla G.
Darla G.4 years ago

interesting, thanks

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Toxic Waste in Fertilizers?
Why is there a question mark on this? Its a FACT.

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn4 years ago

When you have a choice between nitrates and phosphates mixed with fly ash, versus cow pies, hog waste, and road apples, what's your favourite? Fertilising a forest farm with fly ash would be appropriate, but our food crops should benefit far more from the exhaust of our livestock. And mind the darn runoff; no point in wasting fertiliser on needless algae blooms or giving downstream city water treatment plants problems...