Synthetic fibers as an indicator of land application of sludge

Environ Pollut. 2005 Nov;138(2):201-11. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2005.04.013.


Synthetic fabric fibers have been proposed as indicators of past spreading of wastewater sludge. Synthetic fiber detectability was examined in sludges (dewatered, pelletized, composted, alkaline-stabilized) and in soils from experimental columns and field sites applied with those sludge products. Fibers (isolated by water extraction and examined using polarized light microscopy) were detectable in sludge products and in soil columns over 5 years after application, retaining characteristics observed in the applied sludge. Concentrations mirrored (within a factor of 2) predictions based on soil dilution. Fibers were detectable in field site soils up to 15 years after application, again retaining the characteristics seen in sludge products. Concentrations correlated with residual sludge metal concentration gradients in a well-characterized field site. Fibers found along preferential flow paths and/or in horizons largely below the mixed layer suggest some potential for translocation. Synthetic fibers were shown to be rapid and semi-quantitative indicators of past sludge application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Humans
  • Manufactured Materials*
  • Sewage*
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Textiles*
  • Waste Management*
  • Water Movements


  • Sewage
  • Soil