Mother Earth News / Joanna Poncavage / February/March 2016
As soil fertility declined because of repeated tillage and other industrial practices, farmers began using more synthetic nitrogen. About 25 billion pounds of it have been applied to crops each year in the United States for the past few decades. That’s almost five times the amount that was applied in 1960. Now, scientists say it’s leaching into and affecting groundwater. A 2015 study from Environmental Science and Technology Letters linked nitrate from fertilizers to the uranium contamination of drinking water from two major U.S. aquifers. Some water samples in the Midwest registered at 89 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum level for safety, and water in California’s Central Valley was even worse, with some samples revealing uranium levels up to 180 times the uppermost safety limit.
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