Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey

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Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, a 2009 EPA study, concluded that all sewage sludge contains toxic and hazardous materials, including large numbers of endocrine disruptors.

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]

Analytes Included in the TNSSS


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

The survey tested for four PAHs: Fluoranthene, Pyrene, Benzo(a)pyrene, 2-Methylnaphthalene

It found Fluoranthene in 77 samples in concentrations ranging from 45 to 12,000 micrograms per kilogram. Pyrene was found in 72 samples, ranging from 44 to 14,000 micrograms per kilogram. Benzo(a)pyrene was found in 64 samples, ranging from 63 to 4,500 micrograms per kilogram. Last, 2-Methylnaphthalene was only found in 39 samples, ranging from concentrations of 10 to 4,600 micrograms per kilogran.

Semivolatile organics

Inorganic anions

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), including the Tetra, Hexa, Penta, and Deca congeners

The survey tested for each of the following Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) cogeners:

Each cogener tested for was found in every single sample, with the exception of BDE-138 (found in 56 samples) and BDE-209 (found in 83 samples). The presence of BDE-47, BDE-99, BDE-100, BDE-153, and BDE-154 indicates commercial PentaBDE, which is made up of these cogeners. BDE-209 indicates the presence of commercial DecaBDE.

Antibiotics and their degradation products, disinfectants, and other antimicrobials

The presence of antibiotics in sludge is of particular interest due to data that plants can uptake antibiotics in the soil.[3] Of the antibiotics, etc, included in this category, two were found in all samples and a total of nine were found in more than 76 samples. However, 11 were not found at all, and another 16 were found in three or fewer samples.

Antibiotics, etc, found in over 70 out of 84 samples:

Antibiotics, etc, found in over half of the samples:

Antibiotics, etc, found in more than 10 samples:

Antibiotics, etc, found in fewer than 10 samples:

Antibiotics, etc, not found:

Other Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals found in more than 70 of 84 samples:

Pharmaceuticals found in more than half of the samples:

Pharmaceuticals found in more than a 10 of samples:

Pharmaceuticals found in under 10 samples:

Pharmaceuticals not found:



Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. [www. 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. "Plants uptake antibiotics: Routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock may be contaminating the environment", Press Release, Soil Science Society of America, July 11, 2007, Accessed August 9, 2010.

External resources

External articles

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