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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 12 (2001), Issue 4, Pages 201-201

Wasting Away: To Sludge or Not to Sludge?

L Nicolle1 and M Miller2

1The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
2Department of Microbiology, Division of Infectious Diseases, Sir Mortimer B Davis Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Following a century of high standards of sanitation, food and water safety in North America are often taken for granted. Recent outbreaks of illness attributed to food and water contamination, however, have challenged this complacency. Now, sludge is added to the list of concerns. Sewage sludge is the muddy substance that remains after the treatment of municipal sewage. This material includes not only human waste, but also household and industrial toxic wastes disposed of in local sewers. Federal and provincial Canadian regulations support the use of this material as fertilizer, within acceptable guidelines, as does the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. The safety of sludge, however, is questioned by some individuals and groups. Specifically, the risk of infectious agents and toxins to workers or other exposed individuals, and the potential for heavy metals and organic chemicals to be transferred from sludge-treated fields into crops are concerns.