California’s fertilizer industry has managed a near-perfect record after four years of compliance with strict heavy metals content regulations, based upon sampling and testing of fertilizing materials by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

“The fact that there was only a small fraction of violations cited by CDFA in more than 600 samples is a very good indicator that the industry is closely following the rules,” said Renee Pinel, president/CEO of Western Plant Health Association in Sacramento, a nonprofit group that represents hundreds of members involved in the fertilizer industry.

“The CDFA’s latest sampling suggests that fertilizer companies throughout California are doing everything in their power to protect public health from concerns raised related to heavy metal in fertilizer,” Pinel said.

According to the CDFA, the agency randomly sampled about 2,330 fertilizing materials from Jan. 1, 2002, to Dec. 31, 2005. From these samples, 605 fertilizer samples were analyzed for heavy metals. The department found only six incidents, about less than one percent of analyzed samples, exceeding the regulatory limits for at least one metal.

The fertilizer heavy metals standards are based on a CDFA report entitled “Risk-based Concentrations for Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium in Inorganic Commercial Fertilizers.” The standards require manufacturers of commercial fertilizers selling products in California to ensure that products do not exceed certain levels for lead, arsenic and cadmium. The standards are considered the most restrictive in the world.

To guarantee compliance, the California Department of Food and Agriculture conducts random sampling of fertilizer products. Manufacturers are also required to document whether their products contained recycled materials.