A Risk-Based Methodology for Deriving Quality Standards for Organic Contaminants in Sewage Sludge for Use in Agriculture — Conceptual Framework

Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. 2004;40(3):227-251

This paper describes a systematic methodology (Conceptual Framework) to derive quality standards for organic (anthropogenic) contaminants in sewage sludge added to agricultural land, in the context of revision of EU Sludge Directive 86/278/EEC and the broader Soil Thematic Strategy.

The overall objective is to ensure, based on a risk assessment approach, a sustainable use of sludge over a long time horizon. ILSI Europe’s Conceptual Framework is in essence consistent with the EU Technical Guidance Document (TGD) for Environmental Risk Assessment of Chemicals in the soil compartment, or US-EPA’s Sewage Sludge Use and Disposal Regulations, Part 503 Standards.

A ‘checklist’ of different exposure pathways and transfer processes for organic contaminants needs to be considered, and the most sensitive relevant toxicological endpoint and its PNEC need to be identified. The additional complexity specific to deriving Sludge Quality Standards (SQS) is that the toxicity results may need — e.g., for (indirect) human toxicity — to be related back to maximum acceptable soil exposure levels (PECsoil). In turn, the latter need to be back-calculated to the maximum acceptable levels in sewage sludge (PECsludge) at the time of application.

Finally, for a sustainable sludge use, the exposure from repeated addition and potential chemical build-up over time (e.g., 100 years) needs to be assessed. The SQS may therefore vary with the (local) sludge application regime, and/or sludge pretreatment processes.

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