The European Union on Tuesday agreed on a cap for cadmium levels in fertilisers in a move welcomed by Russia’s Phosagro but greeted with some scepticism by a European industry lobby.
The metallic element cadmium (Cd) is generally present in the earth’s crust at low levels. On average, the metal concentration is about 0.15 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of soil. However, cadmium is present at elevated levels as an impurity in phosphate deposits in many countries, including in northwestern Africa, and the ore from these deposits is used to produce mineral fertilisers. Cadmium concentrations vary significantly by geography and the amount of cadmium transferred from rock to fertilizer depends on the fertilizer manufacturing process. In single superphosphate and triple superphosphate manufacturing processes, all of the cadmium transfers to the fertilizer. Caused by the application of fertilizers, soil cadmium levels around the world have steadily increased. Plants readily take up cadmium into their leaves, stems, roots and tubers, and to a lesser extent their seeds, grains, and fruits. Cadmium is recognized as a human carcinogen, a classification mainly based on occupational studies of lung cancer. Other cancers have been reported, but dose-response relationships cannot be defined. Cardiovascular disease has been associated with cadmium exposure in recent epidemiological studies, but more evidence is needed in order to establish causality. Adequate evidence of dose-response relationships is available for kidney effects. Human exposure is mainly via the diet. Risk assessment studies suggest that cadmium in food may be significant as low as 5 μg/kg or 5 ppb. In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established a provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) level of 2.5 μg/kg body weight. This translates to an intake level of about 17 to 25 μg Cd per day for an adult and less for children. The EU Initiative to limit Cd levels in fertilizers:
According to a statement of the European Parliament, the EU imports more than 6 million tonnes of phosphate rock a year but could recover much more through recycling. It said that only 5 percent of waste organic material is being re-used as fertilizer in the bloc.
Photo: European Parliament (Copyright: CC-by-sa 3.0)
Tuesday’s preliminary decision, which has yet to receive final approval from the European Parliament and the bloc’s member states, sets a limit of 60 milligrams of cadmium per kilogram of fertilizer in a move the EU’s legislative said would promote organic fertilisers.
“The agreed text introduces limits for heavy metals, such as cadmium, in phosphate fertilisers to reduce health and environmental risks,” the European Parliament said in a statement, adding that the new limit would take effect three years after the new law is enacted.
Phosagro and Norwegian fertilizer maker Yara are potential winners, along with producers in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, while rivals from Morocco and Tunisia stand to lose out because their products contain more cadmium, industry sources said.
The chief executive of Phosagro, Andrey Guryev, welcomed the decision, saying: “We will continue to sell our premium-quality products, which are well below the limits introduced.”
An EU mineral fertilizer industry lobby group broadly welcomed the preliminary agreement but said the 60 mg/kg limit was too harsh.
“We ... regret that the level of nutrients in mineral fertilisers was reduced,” Fertilizers Europe also said.
Originally, the Commission proposed
reducing the cadmium limit from 60mg/kg to 40mg/kg after three years
and 20mg/kg after 12 years, but these further cuts have now been
The new rules, which still need to be formally approved by Members of the European Parliament, and the member states, will come into force three years after they are introduced.
Source: Adapted from Reuters (Nov. 20, 2018)
Related information PPRC: FAQs About Cadmium in Fertilizers
Related studies (newest first)
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, Pure Appl. Chem., 90/4 (2018) 755-808. DOI: 10.1515/pac-2016-0910
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, J. Sci. Res. Rep., 3/4 (2014) 610-620. available from: http://www.sciencedomain.org/abstract/2779
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Related EVISA Resources EVISA Link Database: Toxicity of cadmium EVISA Link Database: Environmental cadmium pollution
last time modified: November 26, 2018