Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any potential risks.
Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
...There is no evidence there was any medical follow-up.
Comparable research was conducted by the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency in a similarly poor, black neighborhood in East St. Louis, Ill. Residents there also were not told of the potential risks.
However, there has been a paucity of research into the possible harmful effects of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals, and disease-causing microorganisms often found in sludge.
A series of reports by the EPA's inspector general and the National Academy of Sciences between 1996 and 2002 faulted the adequacy of the science behind the EPA's 1993 regulations on sludge.
The chairman of the 2002 academy panel, Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe.
"There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe," Burke said. "What's needed are more studies on what's going on with the pathogens in sludge - are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn't been there."
It seems that, instead of doing preliminary, basic studies to see whether spreading sludge on lawns might be safe for people, they just skipped straight to testing on poor black families--and apparently didn't even do a medical follow-up. That's abhorrent.
Via aimai, via LG&M.