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Notice to industry – Intent to engage on implementing an interim standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in biosolids

May 19, 2023

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is signaling its intent to engage on proposed interim standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in biosolids imported or sold in Canada as fertilizers. This standard is designed to mitigate the potential risks to human health and the environment associated with land application of PFAS-containing biosolids sold as commercial fertilizer. The CFIA's proposed interim standard will require that biosolids contain less than 50 ppb (µg/kg) of per-fluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as an indicator before to they can be imported or sold in Canada.

Biosolids are the solid phase of municipal wastewater treatment, often beneficially re-used and applied to land as a source of nutrients and organic matter. The CFIA regulates the importation and sale of biosolids as commercial fertilizers while the manufacture, use and disposal are regulated by the Provinces and Territories. There are currently no standards for PFAS in biosolids in Canada.

When treated and managed properly biosolids can be a source of beneficial nutrients and organic matter in agriculture; divert organic material from landfills; reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large scale operations; and generate biogas to be used as source of energy (heating, fuel, electricity).

The CFIA has been working with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Health Canada, and provincial partners to assess the level of risk to the food and feed chains posed by biosolids contaminated with PFAS, and to develop a coordinated approach to protect human health and the safety of Canadian agriculture. Preliminary analysis of PFAS content in Canadian biosolids (based on results from both government monitoring and voluntary testing performed by industry), indicate that over 90% of all Canadian-produced biosolids contain less than 50 ppb of PFOS. This means that the proposed interim standard is not anticipated to negatively impact the vast majority of domestic biosolids and, therefore, cause minimal disruption to waste-diversion efforts across Canada. The proposed interim standard will effectively prevent the small proportion of biosolids products that are heavily impacted by industrial inputs (both domestic and imported) from being imported or sold as fertilizers in Canada. This interim approach is intended to provide a risk control measure for biosolids that is protective of the environment and the safety food and feed crops grown in Canada.

The CFIA will engage with provinces, industry, producer organizations and other stakeholders on the interim standard this summer. The feedback received will inform the development of an implementation plan and detailed guidance to importers and domestic generators and processors of commercial biosolids.

Contact information

Fertilizer Safety Section
c/o Pre-market Application Submissions Office
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
59 Camelot Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0Y9
Phone: 1-855-212-7695

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