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.
- 1 Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey 2009 EPA study
- 2 Alkylphenols and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates
- 3 Dioxins and Furans
- 4 Flame Retardants
- 5 Metals and Non-Metallic Elements
- 6 Pesticides
- 7 Perfluorinated Compounds
- 8 Pharmaceuticals and Their Breakdown Products
- 9 Phthalates
- 10 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
- 11 Other Chemicals and Pathogens
- 12 Articles and resources
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.  Hundreds of communities across the U.S. sell sludge products that are renamed biosolids and sold or given away as "organic fertilizer."
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. 
Alkylphenols and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates
Dioxins and Furans
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
- 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE)
- 2-ethylhexyl 2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (TBB)
- di(2-ethylhexyl)-2,3,4,5-tetrabromophthalate (TBPH)
- Dechlorane Plus (syn- and anti-isomers; a chlorinated flame retardant)
Metals and Non-Metallic Elements
Metals and non-metallic elements:
- silver (including nanosilver, nanoparticle of silver, an antimicrobial agent)
Pharmaceuticals and Their Breakdown Products
Analgesics (drugs that treat pain):
Antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria):
- Azithromycin (Zithromax)
- Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Doxycycline (Doryx, Monodox, Vibramycin)
- Enrofloxacin (Baytril)
- Minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin, Myrac)
- Norfloxacin (Noroxin)
- Ofloxacin (Floxin)
- Oxytetracycline (Terramycin)
- Sulfamethoxazole and Trimethoprim (Bactrim)
- Tetracycline (Achromycin)
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):
- Triclocarban (3,4,4'-trichlorocarbanilide)
- Triclosan (and its breakdown products, such as 2,8-dichlorodibenzodioxin and Methyltriclosan)
Breakdown Products of Pharmaceuticals:
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
Other Chemicals and Pathogens
Other Chemicals and Pathogens:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
- Pathogenic microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and helminths
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Polycyclic musks (such as Galaxolide and Tonalide)
- Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs)
- Steroids and hormones (such as stigmastanol, beta-sitosterol, and estradiol)
- Trihalomethanes (THMs)
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Food Rights Network
- Sewage sludge
- You say biosolids, I say sewage sludge
- Scientific Studies of Sewage Sludge
- Sludge contaminants
- Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey
- The EPA's plan to bypass opposition to sewage sludge disposal
- Sewage sludge giveaways, producers, and brands
- Water Environment Federation
- US Composting Council
- Sludge News
- Sewage Sludge Primer
- Rebekah Wilce, More Free Sludge! Calabasas, California Offers Free Sewage Sludge, PRWatch.org, March 6, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Sewage Sludge Rash: Texas Musical Fest-Goers Blame "Dillo Dirt", PRWatch.org, March 2, 2012.
- Rebekah Wilce, Neighbors Occupy Road, Blockade Sludge Trucks, PRWatch.org, January 2, 2012.
- Rebekah Wilce, Sludge Industry Reveals "Resource Recovery" Spin, PRWatch.org, December 15, 2011.
- Rebekah Wilce, Meet Kellogg's Sludge Puppet, PRWatch.org, November 9, 2011.
- Lisa Graves, Children Gardening in Sewage Sludge: Los Angeles Schools Alerted, PRWatch.org, October 11, 2011.
- Jill Richardson, Los Angeles and Kern County's Epic Sewage Sludge Battle, PRWatch.org, October 5, 2011.
- Jill Richardson, Would you "Like" Sewage Sludge on Facebook?, PRWatch.org, September 12, 2011.
- Jill Richardson, ALEC Exposed: Protecting Factory Farms and Sewage Sludge?, PRWatch.org, August 4, 2011.
- Jill Richardson, Why is Monterey Bay Aquarium Greenwashing Sewage Sludge?, PRWatch.org, May 20, 2011.
- John Stauber, San Francisco's Free "Organic Biosolids Compost" is Toxic Sludge, and Not Good For You!, PRWatch.org, August 17, 2010.
- John Stauber, Gavin Newsom Hopes to Leave his Sludge in San Francisco, PRWatch.org, July 27, 2010.
- John Stauber, Chez Sludge: Complaint Filed Regarding Francesca Vietor's Threat to the Guardian, PRWatch.org, July 13, 2010.
- John Stauber, Chez Sludge: How the Sewage Sludge Industry Bedded Alice Waters, PRWatch.org, July 9, 2010.
- John Stauber, ACSH Makes Alice Waters a Poster Child for Toxic Sludge, PRWatch.org, April 13, 2010.
- Jill Richardson, Toxic Sludge Taints the White House, PRWatch.org, March 29, 2010.
- John Stauber, Waiter, There is Toxic Sludge in my Soup!, PRWatch.org, March 16, 2010.
- John Stauber, San Francisco's Toxic Sludge: It's Good for You!, PRWatch.org, February 8, 2010.
- John Stauber, Toxic Sludge: Better than Ever!, PRWatch.org, May 3, 2009.
- John Stauber, Toxic Sludge is Still Good for You!, PRWatch.org, April 28, 2009.
- John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, "Flack Attack", PR Watch, Volume 2, No. 3, 3rd Quarter 1995.
- Dr. Steve Suppan, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Nanomaterials In Soil: Our Future Food Chain?, organizational report, March 28, 2013.
- Murray McBride, "No solid evidence that biosolids are safe to disperse," The Chronicle Herald, August 27, 2011.
- L.S. Hundal, K. Kumar, N. Basta and A.E. Cox, "Evaluating Exposure Risk To Trace Organic Chemicals In Biosolids," BioCycle August 2011, Vol. 52, No. 8, p. 31.
- Rebecca Renner, Sludge Sloughs Off Perfluorinated Chemicals: Biosolids can leach perfluorinated chemicals into farm soil, albeit at low levels, Chemical and Engineering News, April 8, 2011.
- Gayathri Vaidyanathan, Biosolids Tracking Efforts a Jumble of Research With No Clear Answers, New York Times, Greenwire, August 26, 2010.
- Brady Welch, Shit show: What has the SFPUC has been dumping in city gardens?, San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 23, 2010.
- Denny Boyles, Group's Appeal Puts Kings County, Calif., Composting Facility on Hold, The Fresno Bee, February 26, 2004.
- John Heilprina, "15 Sewage Chemicals Could Face Regulation; Fertilizer Plea Ignored," Saint Paul Pioneer Press, January 1, 2004.
- TNSSS: EPA-822-R-08-016 and EPA-822-R-08-018. Published by EPA, January 2009.
- TNSSS overview-Survey Results, US EPA website, Accessed August 5, 2010
- 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