Seattle recently became the first city to legalize the use of decomposed human bodies in compost. This change comes along with many other recent updates that have also allowed the use of biosolids (aka human poop) in certain compost applications. This is giving rise to debate, not just among gardeners and landscapers, but from many groups concerned about the implications.
Proponents assure the public that the use of human bodies and waste as compost materials are safe for non-agricultural/non-edible applications and that they have passed rigorous testing; however, many people are till concerned about the quality and content of compost derived from human waste and human bodies. Namely what happens to the toxic metals and medications we consume? Do they end up in the soil and if so, are they absorbed by the plant in harmful levels? And if you’re me, will the spirit of a dead hippy take over my plants and attack me when I’m weeding? I’m really concerned about this. Just kidding!
Heavy Metals and Toxicity
In all seriousness, the concerns about heavy metals such as iron as well as concerns about medications are valid. Much of the metals in our body are processed by our internal organs and what our body can’t use is excreted through our waste. Some health experts note that in recent years, people are consuming and being exposed to higher levels of toxic metals than in the past. However, according to the article from the Seattle Times, human waste materials are subjected to rigorous testing to ensure metals are within guidelines deemed acceptable by the EPA.
Medications and Illicit Drug Use
Although human waste is thoroughly tested for the presence of metals, it currently is not tested for the presence of medications. I looked for research to see if anyone is testing the output of human waste for the presence of harmful medications, and wasn’t able to find any information. However, there is data on the growing presence of medications in drinking water.
Be An Educated Consumer
Now I am all for minimizing waste and reusing everything we can to be good stewards of the land. We do need to approach it fully educated and properly apply alternative fertilizers and composts appropriately to avoid dangerous contaminants. As a consumer, read the labels and if there is something you don’t understand, ask the experts or do a little research on your own. Know what is in your products. It may say “natural” or includes organic materials, but that does not make it 100% organic or food dafe. Know the difference and apply them to the right situation.
Watch Out For Killer Tomatoes
As for the potential demonic possession of my marigolds, TAPS and Ghost Facers haven’t tackled that question yet (bonus points to anyone who gets those references). However, I’m pretty sure that is how we ended up with killer tomatoes (another reference that’ll get you points). I’ll keep my Ginzu knives ready just in case.