Does Faeces Cure Lead Poisoning?

This would be funny if it wasn’t both dangerous and disgusting: scientists using federal grant money spread sludge made of processed human waste over the yard of nine families in a poor, largely African-American section of Baltimore.
Image from Bukutgirl on Flickr

The research, which was designed to mitigate long-term risks from lead-based paint, was largely carried out without the understanding of the families involved, who were paid for their troubles with new lawns and food coupons.

The federal government has maintained for years that the sludge (which is what’s left after several rounds of treatment at one of the nation’s 16,500 wastewater treatment facilities) is nontoxic to humans. However, there’s little excuse for why this experiment was carried out only in poor, minority neighborhoods (a sister project was undertaken in East St. Louis, IL).

Despite that history, there have been doubts about the sludge: the EPA Inspector General called the agency stance on it into doubt in 2002, demanding more research.

The families in the experiment were simply lied to, and told that the fertilizer was store-bought, and that their children were at risk to lead poisoning without it. There has been no medical follow-up since the end of the project.