January 22, 2024

Whitehouse, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Research Effect of Microplastics on Healthy Farming Practices

Microplastics may be traveling through wastewater systems and ending up on farms

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in introducing legislation to research the impact of microplastics on biosolids and the overall health and safety of farming practices.  The Research for Healthy Soils Act would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make grants available to study the incidence and effects of microplastics in biosolids on farmland.

“Plastics are everywhere, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the atmosphere,” said Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “We need a better understanding of the effects all this plastic may be having on our food chain and human health.”

Biosolids are a valuable product of the wastewater treatment process that can be applied as fertilizer to agricultural land to add nutrients and improve soil structure.  Applying biosolids to land saves money for farmers by reducing their need for phosphorus and synthetic fertilizers, while at the same time keeping waste out of landfills.

Preliminary studies have shown that biosolids may contain microplastics, with a recent study estimating that application of biosolids in the U.S. could annually release up to 1,080 trillion microplastics into the environment.  Additional research is needed to understand the amount of microplastics in biosolids and the potential effects microplastics have on soil health, crops, public health, and the environment. 

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-03) and Young Kim (R-CA-40).

A bill summary can be found here.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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