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Discussing Relative Risk – An Approach to Improving Biosolids Public Perception

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We can all agree that there is a need to improve public perception regarding the recycling of biosolids. The public at large often views biosolids recycling with a certain level of disdain, arguing that the human waste and industrial flow that enters the wastewater treatment plants of America contain contaminants that might potentially cause health problems. We should not argue with this statement. Biosolids can contain pathogens, heavy metals, and other contaminants that might raise concerns with the receiving public. What the biosolids industry needs to make perfectly clear is that the product placed on farmers fields, strip mines, forestland, and other reuse sites is monitored, treated, tested, and recycled in a manner designed to limit contaminants and therefore limit risk. The public needs to recognize the measures taken to protect their health and the extremely limited risk to which they are exposed. In order to accomplish this, we need to present examples to the public that compare the risk of biosolids use to risks undertaken in other aspects of their lives. This paper presents examples of relative risk for the major pollutants of concern – odors, metals, and pathogens.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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