Comparison of arsenic content in pelletized poultry house waste and biosolids fertilizer

Keeve E. Nachman, Jana N. Mihalic, Thomas A. Burke, Alison S. Geyh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managers of human biosolids have been incorporating the practice of waste pelletization for use as fertilizer since the mid 1920s, and waste pelletization has recently been embraced by some poultry producers as a way to move nutrients away from saturated agricultural land. However, the presence of arsenic in pelletized poultry house waste (PPHW) resulting from the use of organoarsenical antimicrobial drugs in poultry production raises concerns regarding additional incremental population exposures. Arsenic concentrations were determined in PPHW and pelletized biosolids fertilizer (PBF) samples. Pellets were processed using strong acid microwave digestion and analyzed by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy. The mean arsenic concentration in PPHW (20.1 ppm) fell within the lower part of the range of previously report arsenic concentrations in unpelletized poultry house waste. Arsenic concentrations in PBF, the source of which is less clear than for PPHW, were approximately a factor of 5 times lower than those in PPHW, with a mean concentration of 4.1 ppm. The pelletization and sale of these biological waste fertilizers present new pathways of exposure to arsenic in consumer populations who would otherwise not come into contact with these wastes. Arsenic exposures in humans resulting from use of these fertilizer pellets should be quantified to avoid potential unintended negative consequences of managing wastes through pelletization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)500-506
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Animal waste
  • Arsenic
  • Biosolids
  • Poultry
  • Roxarsone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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