Copyright © 1997 The Seattle Times Company
Thursday, July 3, 1997

From factories to fields

1 Heavy industries producing metals, wood and paper products, and cement are some of the leaders in collecting dangerous wastes for recycling. These wastes can contain lead, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals, dioxins and radionuclides.

2 Waste comes out of factories in the form of dark ash, collected from pollution-control equipment in the smokestack, or sometimes in rock or liquid forms as a manufacturing byproduct.

3 Fertilizer manufacturer takes the waste, often with payment from factory. The manufacturer may further refine waste, adding liquids to make it into granules for consistency, dust control and easier spreading.

4 Recycled fertilizer, often blended with other fertilizing material, is spread on agricultural land. Farmers and state regulators can't be sure what's in the product because the manufacturer has to report only the beneficial ingredients.

5 Plants take up some of the heavy metals along with other nutrients and water from the soil. Grazing animals eat plants and soil.

Background & related info.

  • Fear in the Fields, Part 1 & 2
  • Examples throughout the country
  • Tag-along toxics
  • Two approaches to toxins in fertilizer
  • Chart: heavy metals in fertilizers
  • What's known, and not known, about toxics, plants and soil
  • Experts: How to reduce risk
  • Resources on the World Wide Web
  • Here are some officials to call or write