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Indicators- Toxic Fertilizer

 Across the nation, industrial wastes laden with heavy metals and other dangerous materials are being used in fertilizers and spread over farmland. The process, which is legal, saves industries the high costs of disposing of hazardous wastes.

The lack of national recognition and of labeling requirements means most farmers have no idea exactly what they're putting on their crops when they apply fertilizers.

The wastes come from iron, zinc, and aluminum smelting, mining, cement kilns, the burning of medical and municipal wastes, and a variety of other heavy industries.

Federal and state governments encourage the practice in the name of recycling. In fact, it has some benefits - recycling waste as fertilizer saves companies money and conserves precious space in hazardous-waste landfills. And, mixed and handled correctly, the material can help crops grow.

The problem is that the "beneficial materials" in industrial waste, such as nitrogen and magnesium, often are accompanied by dangerous chemicals and heavy metals - including cadmium, lead, arsenic, radionuclides, and dioxins - at levels some scientists say may pose a threat to human health. Although the effects are widely disputed, there is undisputed evidence that the substances enter plant roots. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree that these fertilizers are a health threat, most experts believe further study is needed.

In other nations, including Canada and many European countries, the lack of certainty has led to strict regulation. However, in the US, no such regulations exist.
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