As farmers in Europe and around the world grapple with rising fertilizer prices, researchers suggest the solution could be closer to home than people flushing down the toilet.
A peer-reviewed paper published Monday in Frontiers in Environmental Science by scientists in Europe found that fertilizers made from human feces and urine are safe to use, and contain chemicals much smaller than drugs or medications, for example. Will be received in food.
Governments around the world are struggling to keep fertilizer costs manageable and increase self-sufficiency after prices of natural gas, a key feedstock for crop nutrients, soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. European Union officials are looking at ways to speed up the development of manure-based fertilizers after a rise in costs prompted anger among the bloc’s farmers.
In terms of safety, the researchers screened human waste for 310 chemicals, ranging from pharmaceuticals to insect repellent, and found that only 6.5 percent of these were at concentrations below and above the limit of detection. The authors concluded, “In general, the risk to human health of pharmaceutical compounds entering the food system through fecal compost use appears to be low.”
While they detected two pharmaceutical products in the edible parts of the cabbage, the pain reliever ibuprofen and the anticonvulsant drug carbamazepine, the concentrations were markedly lower. That means one would need to eat more than half a million heads of cabbage to accumulate a dose equivalent to one carbamazepine pill, he said.
The increase in fertilizer costs after the Russian invasion had already prompted some farmers to turn to animal dung and even human feces to replace synthetic crop nutrients, but these alternatives proved less effective. were. However, this study suggests that some products processed from human waste may come close to matching the efficiency of synthetic alternatives.
“If properly formulated and quality-controlled, up to 25 percent of conventional synthetic mineral fertilizers in Germany could be replaced by recycled fertilizers from human urine and feces,” said lead author Ariane Krause.
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