Fertilizers are natural or synthetic compounds that are used to treat soil or plants in order to promote plant growth, either by providing nutrients or by enhancing soil health.
All fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, in varying proportions; most of them also include calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper and other elements.
Fertilizers can be used on any plant, whether in small doses for potted plants or over large areas of industrial crops. They are usually adjusted to best respond to the type of soil and the specific plant needs.
The quantity of fertilizer applied should also be carefully considered in order to prevent fertilizer burn.
There are numerous well-researched negative effects of fertilizer use, the most important of which concerns agricultural runoff that pollutes water bodies. Nitrates, cadmium, various metals and radioactive elements can either accumulate in the soil or leak into regional waters.
Among the health hazards posed by fertilizers are:
Unfortunately, the boom in biofuels will only make things worse, as fertilizers from increased corn production, for instance, will produce similar runoffs and severely affect the environment.