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Fertilizing with human urine -- medication concerns?

 
Jaz Yeatts
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Hi y'all,

I'm interested in fertilizing my hugelkultur and other raised beds with diluted human urine to up the nitrogen content. I am on a couple of prescription medications and several 'natural' dietary supplements and I'm wondering if I should be concerned about any of the components of such products entering my soil via urine? Anyone have experience / ideas / opinions on the topic?

(Apologies if this is not the right section to post this question in, I am new here Please let me know if I should move this elsewhere )
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Jaz, first of all, welcome to permies!

I don't know the answer to your question. I suspect "it depends" on the medications. For example, when I was taking a certain chemo drug and the doctor warned me to always close the lid on the toilet so no animals could drink out of it, even after I flushed - well, I made sure that pee went on ornamental plants (I peed in the outdoor shower which feeds mostly ornamental plants). All those plants are still alive and kickin'.

Perhaps if you have doubts, water ornamentals with that pee. Otherwise I would suspect that soil life, fungi, etc would basically neutralize any baddies.

 
Jaz Yeatts
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Thanks for your response Jennifer, and thanks for the welcome!

I guess the main one I'd be worried about that I'm taking is testosterone, but I'm also on Prozac. Maybe I'll do some more research to try to see how much either of those is present in urine and whether they'd be taken up into plants or what. Meanwhile, hopefully some other folks here can weigh in with their thoughts
 
Roger Taylor
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I suspect you either have to risk it, or take Jennifer's advice. We've all seen the stories about how there are trace amounts of antidepressants/prozac in the UK water supply.

Better to be safe than sorry Jaz.
 
Michael Vormwald
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'When in doubt, leave it out'. Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential risk. In this case, I'd say pee in the can not the garden.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Michael Vormwald wrote:'When in doubt, leave it out'. Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential risk. In this case, I'd say pee in the can not the garden.


Problem is, it just ends up in the drinking water then. In my mind, at least being diluted and put into the soil might give it a chance to be bound up in long carbon chains. It's a tough question for sure.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:
Michael Vormwald wrote:'When in doubt, leave it out'. Does the potential benefit outweigh the potential risk. In this case, I'd say pee in the can not the garden.


Problem is, it just ends up in the drinking water then. In my mind, at least being diluted and put into the soil might give it a chance to be bound up in long carbon chains. It's a tough question for sure.


Mine is being diluted and put into the soil through my health department approved septic system leach field ... but not into my vegetable garden.
I don't think there's any sane sewage system that lets urine go into drinking water.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Yep - mine goes on ornamental plants or woody food producing plants (trees) - not on veggies.
 
Erica Wisner
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When we've had to dispose of outdated vitamins and medication, the vitamins went in the garden compost. (a bunch of herbal supplements and some vitamins).
The medications either went in the toilet, or out to the trash with the cat litter - can't remember which now.
We're on septic so the leach water would get out there at some point anyway (it's a slightly raised leach field above a slope, so hopefully some of the nasties are processed in live dirt before hitting any groundwater).

I don't generally worry about small amounts of medication.
Ernie is on regular medications; he sometimes pees outside in the grassy side-yard with woods downslope, not on the garden side.
Ornamentals and timber, we cultivate native ornamentals there but have no plans to use it for food growing anytime soon.

I know women aren't supposed to be exposed to testosterone, so that might be a reason to do the ornamentals thing instead of the veggie garden.
But testosterone is definitely one of those things that does get produced in nature, and I would assume that soil biota has figured out what to do with it by now.


Would the small quantities of Prozac, and its metabolites, that might survive the decomposition process be a factor in the environment, or in the food chain? I would imagine there's as much incidental exposure from pill dust and the occasional dropped pill as you'd be likely to see in any harvested food. That's if you don't deliberately concentrate it somewhere.

I don't know how you'd find accurate data on what chemicals are likely to be produced in that breakdown process.

Went looking to see if there were any big red flags out there for Prozac metabolite toxicity:
- http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/821737-overview
Prozac is in the general category of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
One of the main warnings on this type of medication is not to combine with other SSRIs (or, incidentally, cannabis), as you can end up with levels of serotonin in the bloodstream that can basically overdose you.

Handling live soil gives you a serotonin boost.
I imagine that handling live soil laced with Prozac might make the good feelings last longer...
but of course you wouldn't want a significant fraction of your dosage.
If you did switch to a different antidepressant and there were significant amounts of Prozac or its metabolites making its way into the food, you could get that SS overdose thing.

I guess from that, I would conclude that you should probably NOT get in the habit of peeing in the same place all the time, unless it's by an ornamental not used for food.
I would imagine that the concentration of urine would kill plants long before you'd build up a significant level of medication in the short term, but that might not be true in the long term depending on how persistent those residues turn out to be.

Other links I found:
http://www.pharmgkb.org/pathway/PA161749012

Image of the molecule:
-


What is Prozac?

Prozac is the commercial name for fluoxetine, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It was invented at Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals, and was originally referred to as Lilly 110140, or p-trifluoro-phenoxyphenylo N-methyl-propylamine. (Wong 82) Prozac evolved from a family of chemical compounds called the phenoxyphenylpropylamine series which were discovered to inhibit serotonin reuptake. (Wong 417) The phenoxyphenylpropylamine series schematic and the fluoxetine molecule schematic are illustrated in figures 3 and 4.

Prozac has four effective enantiomers: S-fluoxetine, its primary metabolite S-norfluoxetine, and their chemical "mirror images," R-fluoxetine and R-norfluoxetine. The entaniomers of Prozac are pictured in figure 5. The S-entaniomers are more potent than their corresponding R- entaniomers: about 1.5 times more potent for fluoxetine, and 20 times more potent for norfluoxetine.(Gram 1354) It is believed that the differences in metabolism of these entaniomers is what makes it difficult to get consistent dose-effect studies of fluoxetine.(1355) More than half the metabolic end products of fluoxetine are unknown. (1354)

- from http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~caitlin/papers/Prozac/
(my emphasis in bold)


Protein binding : 94.5% bound to human serum proteins, including albumin and alpha-1-glycoprotein.
Metabolism :

Limited data from animal studies suggest that fluoxetine may undergo first-pass metabolism may occur via the liver and/or lungs. Fluoxetine appears to be extensively metabolized, likely in the liver, to norfluoxetine and other metabolites. Norfluoxetine, the principal active metabolite, is formed via N-demethylation of fluoxetine. Norfluoxetine appears to be comparable pharmacologic potency as fluoxetine. Fluoxetine and norfluoxetine both undergo phase II glucuronidation reactions in the liver. It is also thought that fluoxetine and norfluoxetine undergo O-dealkylation to form p-trifluoromethylphenol, which is then subsequently metabolized to hippuric acid.

-from http://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00472

I started to look up hippuric acid, and my Internet seems to be stalled.
So I guess that's where I turn it over to you.

I still feel like small amounts would not worry me too much; I would expect the soil to break things down. Perhaps better than some of the municipal sewage treatment or septic tank options I've seen.

I would make sure that it gets spread around relatively evenly.

If you anticipate the same medication being in the nutrient stream on the same land for an extended time, I would think about a two-stage process where you pee on the mulch / hay / ornamental / shade plants, and then (if desired)
use material that grows from that fertility to feed the vegetable garden.

You could also focus on using pee as a wildlife deterrant, if such is needed, 'marking' territory like male animals do. There are lots of beneficial uses other than the vegetable garden.

Best of luck.

-Erica
 
Landon Sunrich
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Erica Wisner wrote:I would conclude that you should probably NOT get in the habit of peeing in the same place all the time


Erica just gave one of the most thought out answer I've seen to your particular question. But It distills down to some general advice down for all those wanting to fertigate

Water it down and spread it out. Preferably on something that has some carbon that needs to be broken down more quickly
 
Arron Hendrix
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I have read that if on medication (pharmaceuticals), then it is best to donate the urine to your ornamental beds and not on/around edibles.
 
Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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Michael Vormwald wrote:I don't think there's any sane sewage system that lets urine go into drinking water.


Every sewage system, sane or otherwise, lets urine go into the drinking water. That's what a sewage system IS. Yes, it gets processed, but what does that process do to any particular chemical, who knows? It is certainly not the case that every single chemical that ends up in a sewer is accounted for and rendered harmless.

But It all has to go somewhere. I can't answer what does the best job of breaking down testosterone, or anything else. Perhaps no one can. But it either get broken down, or it hangs around forever.

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
Matu Collins
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My biggest concern is chemotherapy drugs.

My new plan for urine is to add it to the cedar chip paths throughout my garden. I figure the mycelia and other soil life can figure out a safe distribution system.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Topsoil is much more biologically active than the deep soil of a septic tank, and thus spreading it on topsoil or a compost heap is much more likely to metabolize all the medicines than if you flush it underground into a septic system. And of course many sewage systems don't do much to much of the material that come through them.

Chemotherapy for cancer is specifically chemicals that attack fast-growing or fast-multiplying cells, so it seems like it might be more harmful to the soil organisms than most of the other medicines we are likely to take. I would expect things like hormones and antidepressants would be broken down by soil organisms.
 
Steven Edholm
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As long as the testosterone is bio-identical (same as naturally occuring), I would not worry about it. Assuming you are using physiological doses, it should be no more than you would pee out if you had normal levels in the first place. Prozac is harder call, but I'd probably throw it on personally. I'd work on getting off it too though. I don't meat to be flippant, there could be other effective solutions. Have you looked into thyroid function? Often when one hormone is wacked out, others are too. Standard testing misses most cases of low thyroid function. Good places to start, STTM Stop the Thyroid Madness website, or Dr. Holtorfs videos. Depression is a common side effect of suppressed thyroid function and I guess some study found taking T3 thyroid more effective than antidepressants. Can't hurt to optimize thyroid function anyway, for many other reasons. I used to worry about this issue when on many antibiotics, but continued to use it anyway. Never noticed anything.
 
Jaz Yeatts
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Thanks for your message Steven, I'll definitely look into low thyroid function. I'm actually on testosterone treatment for gender transition as I am transgender. I have other health issues in addition to my depression though, so I wonder if low thyroid could be part of it. I have had a lot of labs run, but as you say maybe there was something they didn't catch.

For now I'm going to avoid using my urine in my garden, as some googling around showed that prozac does seem to bio-accumulate. I'd rather not risk it. I've decided that the testosterone is probably nothing to worry about as it probably is not being excreted in any higher levels than it would if my body were making it the old fashioned way.
 
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2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
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