Health and Safety Facts

The overwhelming body of scientific research supports the conclusion that recycling biosolids on farm fields and forests and composting for residential and commercial applications are safe.

In 2007 the Virginia Department of Health published a study by three respected epidemiologists, Health Effects of Biosolids Applied to Land: Available Scientific Evidence (Jenkins, Armstrong et al. 2007). This study represented an exhaustive review of the current scientific literature about biosolids and human health. The primary conclusions were as follows: “… there does not seem to be strong evidence of serious health risks when biosolids are managed and monitored appropriately. Human health allegations associated with biosolids usually lack evidence of biological absorption, medically determined human health effects, and/or do not meet the biological plausibility test.”

Long-term scientific studies have consistently demonstrated that biosolids recycling through land application is safe.

The management of biosolids to minimize environmental and health risks has been the focus of hundreds of university research studies conducted for many years. The results of this extensive research show that biosolids can be land applied without harm to the environment or to human health.

To ensure that biosolids are treated and appropriately managed, the U.S. Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop comprehensive national standards to reduce the risks and maximize the benefits of land application of biosolids. In February 1993, following the most comprehensive risk assessment in the history of the agency, EPA issued its biosolids use and disposal regulation, 40 CFR Part 503, commonly referred to as the Part 503 Rule.

In Virginia, the General Assembly has enacted numerous laws to regulate the production and beneficial use of biosolids, based on the Part 503 Rule. The EPA has approved Virginia’s biosolids management program and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has the primary responsibility for regulating the land application of biosolids in the Commonwealth.

Biosolids regulations address the following:

  • Trace elements
  • Pathogens
  • Bioaerosols
  • Nitrogen