Sludge contaminants

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{{#badges: ToxicSludge|FoodRightsNetwork}}Sludge contaminants include many hazardous chemicals that are found in sewage sludge. Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell toxic sludge products that are typically renamed biosolids and sold or given away as "organic fertlizer" or "organic compost." A list of some chemicals and pathogens found in sludge is below. Click on this link to view Scientific Studies of Sewage Sludge.

Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey 2009 EPA study

The EPA's 2009 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey concluded that all sewage sludge contains toxic and hazardous materials, including large numbers of endocrine disruptors. The Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey results are described in two EPA reports published in 2009. EPA found that dozens of hazardous materials, not regulated and not required to be tested for, have been documented in each and every one of the sludge samples EPA took around the USA. [1] Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell sludge products that are renamed biosolids and sold or given away as "organic fertilizer."

Survey Results

The survey found:

  • The four anions were found in every sample.
  • 27 metals were found in virtually every sample, with one metal (antimony) found in no less than 72 samples.
  • Of the six semivolatile organics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, four were found in at least 72 samples, one was found in 63 samples, and one was found in 39 samples.
  • Of the 72 pharmaceuticals, three (i.e., cyprofloxacin, diphenhydramine, and triclocarban) were found in all 84 samples and nine were found in at least 80 of the samples. However, 15 pharmaceuticals were not found in any sample and 29 were found in fewer than three samples.
  • Of the 25 steroids and hormones, three steroids (i.e., campesterol, cholestanol, and coprostanol) were found in all 84 samples and six steroids were found in at least 80 of the samples. One hormone (i.e., 17a-ethynyl estradiol) was not found in any sample and five hormones were found in fewer than six samples.
  • All of the flame retardants except one (BDE-138) were essentially found in every sample; BDE-138 was found in 54 out of 84 samples. [2]

Alkylphenols and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates


Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs):

Dioxins and Furans

Dioxins and Furans

Flame Retardants

Flame Retardants[3]

Metals and Non-Metallic Elements

Metals and non-metallic elements:


Organochlorine Pesticides:

Other Pesticides:

Perfluorinated Compounds

Perfluorinated compounds:

Pharmaceuticals and Their Breakdown Products

Analgesics (drugs that treat pain):

Antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria):

Anticonvulsants (drugs that prevent seizures):

Antidepressants (drugs that treat depression):

Antifungals (drugs that treat fungal infections):

Antihelmintics (drugs that treat parasite infections):

Antihistamines (drugs that treat allergy symptoms):

Calcium Channel Blockers (drugs that treat hypertension and angina):

Fibrates (drugs that treat hyperlipidemia):

H2 Blockers (drugs that treat gastroesophageal reflux disease):

Other Drugs:

Breakdown Products of Pharmaceuticals:



Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs):

Other Chemicals and Pathogens

Other Chemicals and Pathogens:

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

PRWatch Articles

External Articles


  1. TNSSS: EPA-822-R-08-016 and EPA-822-R-08-018. Published by EPA, January 2009.
  2. TNSSS overview-Survey Results, US EPA website, Accessed August 5, 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 Elizabeth F. Davis, Susan L. Klosterhaus and Heather M. Stapleton, Measurement of flame retardants and triclosan in municipal sewage sludge and biosolids, Original Research Article, Environment International (Volume 40, April 2012 - Available online December 27, 2011), Pages 1–7