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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - SPECIAL SUBMISSIONS

The Evolving Science of Chemical Risk Assessment for Land-Applied Biosolids


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 1, p. 114-121
    Received: Mar 8, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): rschoof@integral-corp.com
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  1. Rosalind A. Schoof * and
  2. Dana Houkal
  1. Integral Consulting, Inc., 7900 SE 28th Street, Suite 300, Mercer Island, WA 98040


Biosolids, effluents, and manures are widely applied to agricultural land and other land with varying degrees of pretreatment or control. Regulations governing land application of biosolids take several broad forms in different countries, including limitations based on rates that do not lead to increases in background chemical concentrations or risk assessment approaches such as those used in the United States. Risk assessment is a process that is inherently limited by currently available information and practices, and consequently, risk-based land application limits must be reevaluated periodically. For complex mixtures such as biosolids, three principal categories of information will be affected by changing practices and scientific advances: (i) chemical constituents present in the material, (ii) the nature of expected exposures, and (iii) toxicity of the chemical constituents. New analytical methods and lower detection limits will affect chemical identification in wastes. Approaches to exposure assessment, such as increasing emphasis on probabilistic analyses, will continue to evolve, and exposure assumptions will change as new studies provide better data on factors such as soil ingestion, plant uptake of chemicals, and bioavailability of chemicals in soil. Similarly, toxicity assessments will be updated as new studies are conducted. The evolving science over the past decade is illustrated by comparing approaches used by the USEPA to assess human health and ecological risks for the Part 503 rule compared with the more recent evaluation of dioxins and related compounds in biosolids. While risks of chemicals in land-applied biosolids and other residuals need to be periodically reevaluated, such reevaluations may take forms other than full risk assessments.

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