Stop microplastics and 'forever chemicals' poisoning our food

by Fighting Dirty

Stop microplastics and 'forever chemicals' poisoning our food

by Fighting Dirty
Fighting Dirty
Case Owner
George Monbiot, Georgia Elliott-Smith and Steve Hynd are Fighting Dirty - using the law to stop pollution and hold the government to account.
Funded
on 10th November 2023
£48,575
pledged of £40,000 stretch target from 1,647 pledges
Fighting Dirty
Case Owner
George Monbiot, Georgia Elliott-Smith and Steve Hynd are Fighting Dirty - using the law to stop pollution and hold the government to account.

We are Fighting Dirty - three activists using the law to prevent pollution and hold the government to account. Our names are George Monbiot,  Georgia Elliott-Smith and Steve Hynd.

Last year, George wrote about the scandal of toxic sewage sludge being spread on land, releasing thousands of tonnes of microplastics and unknown quantities of dangerous 'forever chemicals' into our soils, streams and food system.

Farmland is the ultimate destination for 3.6m tonnes of the UK's sewage sludge - that's the stuff that gets flushed down the loo plus industrial effluent, litter and rainwater washed into the drains, destined for the sewage works.

This can be a valuable fertiliser, but sadly, since the 1980's the amount of plastic and nasty chemicals contained in sewage sludge has increased but the rules haven't changed. 

Now, without testing or proper controls, farmers are unknowingly spreading substances like asbestos, carcinogenic substances, antibiotics, human and veterinary medicines, pesticides, and antimicrobial chemicals on their land, contaminating crops and watercourses, building up every year the sludge is used.

"In addition to widespread contamination with organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), investigators discovered that almost all treated sludge samples they tested contained the weedkiller glyphosate and the antimicrobial triclosan, which scientists believe may cause antibiotic resistance."

Despite this, sewage sludge is not routinely tested for any of these contaminants before spreading. There are no legal limits to the amount of these chemicals that can be present in landspreading sludge.

The Environment Agency has been aware of this problem since 2017 when their own experts warned that the decades-old rules governing sludge spreading were in need of urgent reform to protect human and environmental health:

"The fate and behaviour of many of these compounds in the soil environment are only beginning to be investigated, and the risks associated with these contaminants are not yet understood." Report to EA, 2017

In 2020, the EA published a strategy for safe and sustainable sludge, stating "the do-nothing option is unacceptable" and that regulations would be introduced by 2023. But, in August 2023, after we wrote to the EA to ask about their progress, the strategy was updated, quietly removing the deadline date and failing to provide a new timeline for action.

We're now in limbo with no hope of action to improve the situation.

With your help, we will take the Environment Agency and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to court, demanding they urgently update the decades-old rules for testing and regulating sewage sludge and other landspreading wastes, avoiding toxins from poisoning our environment and our bodies.

Thank you!

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