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CAUTION ON ZINC IN REVIEW ON USE OF SEWAGE SLUDGE IN AGRICULTURE

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Environment Secretary John Gummer and Agriculture Minister Gillian Shepherd today welcomed publication of the two r...
Environment Secretary John Gummer and Agriculture Minister Gillian Shepherd today welcomed publication of the two reports from the review on the current rules on sewage sludge use in agriculture. The Ministers will examine the reports and their recommendations carefully before providing a considered response in due course.

The interdepartmental Steering Group on Chemical Aspects of Food Surveillance (SGCAFS) looked at the food safety and animal health aspects and a jointly commissioned Independent Scientific Committee chaired by Professor Bradshaw looked at soil fertility.

The Steering Group concentrated on lead, cadmium and copper and concluded that the statutory limits in sludge-amended soils adequately protect the food supply from contamination by these elements.

Further work is underway on levels of potentially toxic elements in tissues of animals grazing on sludge-amended pastures and the Steering Group recommended that the situation should be reviewed when the results from these studies are available. The Steering Group also recommended that continued efforts should be made to reduce the input of metals into agricultural land from all sources, including sewage sludge.

The Independent Scientific Committee concluded that on the whole the current rules on sewage sludge use in agriculture adequately protect soil fertility, but recommended that the zinc limit should be made more stringent, as a precautionary measure. The Committee also questioned the pH banding for metal limits and made recommendations regarding the limits for zinc and cadmium in grassland soils.

Recommendations were made for further research in order to improve the robustness of information for reviewing soil metal limits. The Committee strongly recommended increased efforts to reduce inputs of heavy metals into sewage and supported the further consideration of reducing heavy metal inputs to agricultural land from other sources.

The report from the Steering Group on Chemical Aspects of Food Surveillance (price £2.50) and the report from the Independent Scientific Committee (price £3.50) are available from MAFF Publications, London SE99 7TP or by telephoning 081-694-8862.

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