Phosphorus (P) pollution of surface waters contributes to hazardous algal blooms, posing a significant public health risk from contact with toxins released by the algae. Replenishing P depleted from agricultural soils poses additional public health risks from pollution associated with fertilizer production and the exhaustion of limited domestic P deposits. Environmental health professional responsibilities can impact sources of P pollution, such as onsite wastewater treatment systems, land use planning, watershed and drinking water protection, and stormwater control. The watershed planning process provides an opportunity for environmental health professionals to become involved in protecting public health by assuring the most cost-effective strategies for P control and recovery.
This special report reviews the properties of P that provide both opportunities and challenges for P control and recovery, presents progress being made in P recovery from surface waters, and highlights the most promising technologies for the near future. These technologies have significant implications for public health, the environment, and the economy. Environmental health practitioners can play a role in developing and implementing these technologies and in educating the public about the benefits of P recovery.