Green or Mean? Questions Crop Up About "Organic" Toxic Sludge

Almost fifteen years have passed since CMD blew the whistle on the Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! scam, but the spin campaign continues unabated. San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission hosts "Compost Giveaway Events" where citizens can pick up free "high-quality, nutrient-rich, organic" compost to spread on their lawns and vegetable gardens, but the popular program may actually be giving consumers more than they bargained for. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety warns that the free compost, made from sewage sludge mixed with wood chips and paper by-products, can contain anything that people in a large metropolitan area might intentionally or inadvertently flush, pour or dump into the city's sewage system -- including pharmaceutical drug residues, heavy metals, PCBs, bacteria, endocrine disruptors and radioactive material. San Francisco is just one of many cities across the country using such programs to get rid of sewage sludge, but free compost giveaways are drawing health concerns due to unknowns about the compost's contents and questions about its safety for use on food crops.