Crushed Fish Bones Are the Surprising Solution for Lead Contaminated Soil


Photo: daameriva under a Creative Commons license.

It seems that lead contamination is everywhere these days- in jewelry, in 85% of kids' drinks, even Alaskan waters. Lead is a major problem in soil throughout the country as well, spread by car exhaust fumes, e-waste, and lead-based paint. But Oakland, California has struck upon a pretty interesting solution, reported the New York Times. It's grinding up fish bones and mixing them into the soil.It's not so much the bones themselves that make the difference as the calcium phosphate they contain. When fish bone meal is mixed into the soil, the calcium phosphate combines with the lead to form pyromorphite, a harmless, consumable crystalline mineral. But the great part about this solution, put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency, is not its novelty- it's been around for at least 15 years.

Compared to the expensive and wasteful practice of removing lead-contaminated soil, the fish bones method is remarkably affordable. The NYT writes:

Although the [EPA] does not record its spending by individual contaminants, it is safe to say it has spent millions of dollars on lead cleanup. If the new techniques of neutralizing toxic metals catch on the money would go further by replacing the method of digging up and disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of soil that has been used for more than two decades.

The bones the EPA is using are those of Alaskan pollock, also famous (though less good for everyone) as McDonald's (award winning) Filet-O-Fish. It's certainly good for the pollock's karma that although its flesh may be making us fat, its bones are helping us clean up after ourselves.

Via the New York Times
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More on the fight against lead contamination:
Toxic Soil Busters: Youth Reverse Inner-City Lead Pollution (Video)
Cure Your Toxic Yard: Plants That Extract Lead And Other Buried Pollutants
BEST Battery Program Aims to Reduce Lead Battery Poisoning in Asia

Tags: EPA | Fishing | Toxins

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