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Friday, July 4, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Experts: How To Reduce Risk

Copyright 1997, Seattle Times Co.

Some experts recommend these actions to minimize the health risks from toxic-laced ingredients in fertilizer:

Right to know: Change the laws to require sellers to list all ingredients on the fertilizer label. Currently, manufacturers are only required to tell buyers about nutrients, and state regulators only check for that.

Product testing: Require regular, independent tests of fertilizer products, especially those with recycled waste. Require companies to disclose their own tests when they find certain levels of dangerous materials.

Study: Provide more money for research on the health risks from heavy metals in fertilizer. Independent authorities, protected from pressure from the industry and recycling or landfill interests, ought to select the areas of study. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency needs to complete its long-delayed studies of mercury and dioxins.

Standards: Set national limits for heavy metals in any fertilizer product, as Canada and many European nations have done. Under the Interstate Commerce Clause, Congress could set federal maximums even if the fertilizer-registration laws remain in the control of states.

Treatment: Require recyclers to remove more of the heavy metals from waste. If this was a national requirement, processors would not be afraid of losing market share.

Global view: Establish worldwide standards for hazardous wastes and for fertilizers. Now, richer nations are exporting hazardous wastes to poorer nations, where they are being used dangerously.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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