Special Offer: Free Grass to Subject Your Children to Sludge

Sludge keeps rearing its ugly head. Scientists used federal grant money to "spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil." The residents were not alerted to any harmful ingredients in the sludge, and were assured that it posed no health risks for their families. In exchange for participating in the 2005 study, nine families were given food coupons and a free lawn by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Freedom of Information Act requests by the Associated Press produced grant documents, but none showed any medical follow-up with the homeowners. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted similar research in East St. Louis, Illinois, another impoverished and predominantly African American community. "Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe. 'There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe. What's needed are more studies on what's going on with the pathogens in sludge - are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn't been there.'"