September 25, 2022

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Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage



Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage. 

Sludge produced through the sewage treatment process is rich in nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which makes it an excellent source of fertilizer for agriculture.

But not all sludge is good for the environment, a new study suggests that the material acts as a vehicle to allow so much tiny plastic debris to enter the soil that researchers think Europe’s farms could be the world’s largest microplastic pollution repository.

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

Sewage sludge is an attractive and sustainable source of fertilizer for both large-scale agricultural production and home gardeners. But research is beginning to suggest that its contents may not be entirely harmless, either to the environment or to living organisms.

A study published last year found unsafe levels of toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in every sample of household fertilizer products.

The study found that typical wastewater treatment methods cannot break down these persistent chemicals, and because sludge is widely applied to land across the United States, it introduces large quantities of chemicals into food crops and waterways.

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

The new study, conducted by scientists at Cardiff University and the University of Manchester, focused on European farmlands – and the risks posed to them by fertilizers made from sewage sludge.

The work involved analysing samples from a sewage plant in Newport, South Wales, which is known to treat sewage from a population of about 300,000.

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

The results showed that the plant was collecting larger plastic particles between 1 and 5 mm in size with 100 percent hit rate to prevent them from slipping into waterways.

However, each gram of sewage sludge produced through this process was found to contain as many as 24 microplastic particles, or about one percent of its total weight.

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

The scientists then extrapolated this by using data from the European Commission and Eurostat on the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer across the continent.

Data shows that between 31,000 and 42,000 tonnes of microplastics or many trillions of particles are applied to European soils every year.

According to the researchers, this is comparable to the concentration of microplastics in the surface waters of the ocean.

“Our study questions whether microplastics are actually being removed at sewage treatment plants or effectively transferred in the environment,” said James Lofty, from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering, lead author of the study’s paper. strategies for microplastics in sewage sludge, which means that these pollutants are transported back to the soil and will eventually be returned to the aquatic environment.”

The findings provide new insights into how microplastics migrate through the environment, but perhaps not that surprising given recent research in the field. A 2018 study found microplastics in human fecal samples around the world, and we also saw scientists discover microplastics for the first time in human blood and deep in the lungs.

Other studies have demonstrated how microplastics in wastewater treatment plants can promote the growth of superbugs and how they can carry dangerous pathogens far out to sea.

Lofty said: “Our findings highlight the magnitude of soil problems across Europe, and also suggest that the practice of spreading sludge on agricultural lands has the potential to make them one of the largest reservoirs of microplastic pollution in the world.

Currently, Europe has no Legislation to limit or control the input of microplastics into recycled sewage sludge based on microplastic exposure loads and toxicity.”

Study: Fertilizers are turning European farms into giant microplastic storage

(source:internet, reference only)


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