Why Safer Phosphates?

Around sixteen elements that are potentially hazardous for human health are known to be associated with phosphate rock and phosphate-based fertilizers. Cadmium (Cd) has been the source of greatest concern, followed by arsenic, lead and chromium. These elements may enter the food chain when fertilizers are applied to the soil, and have the potential to create risks to human health.

Naturally occurring heavy metals are known to accumulate in the human body and have the potential to reach toxic levels. Sources and concentrations of heavy metals in the food chain have been a topic of scientific interest for many years, as has the question of where the elements ultimately end up.

Safer Phosphates has been created to promote the use of phosphate-based fertilizers with minimal heavy metal content, limiting the risks associated with these elements entering soils, water and food, thereby reducing associated health threats.

Mission and goals

The mission of Safer Phosphates™ is to share knowledge and address concerns about potentially harmful contaminants such as heavy metals that are present in some phosphate-based fertilizers. We want to improve understanding of the potential risks and promote solutions that optimise fertilizer choice to support food security and sustainable agriculture. Our goals are to:

  • Build a voluntary network to develop and share relevant knowledge on safer phosphate-based fertilizers;
  • Enable farmers and decision-makers to more accurately assess issues related to fertilizer quality, food security and environmental health;
  • Raise the profile and promote use of phosphate-based fertilizers that are low in heavy metals and more environmentally-friendly.

Who we are

We are a network of fertilizer industry organisations and related interested groups committed to improving the environmental footprint of phosphate-based mineral fertilizer use. Safer Phosphates was formed to address numerous important questions about fertilizer quality that are critical for food security, sustainable agriculture and environmental health.

What we do

  • We seek out and share knowledge on heavy metals in phosphate-based fertilizers;
  • We build awareness on policy solutions, production techniques and management options;
  • We facilitate the exchange of information and technical cooperation.

Our aim is to improve access to information that supports good decision-making about fertilizer use, environmental protection, food security and health.

Aligned with global sustainability initiatives

We want our activities to contribute to global food security and sustainable agriculture, and our goals are aligned with those of global institutions:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals, promoting food security and sustainable agriculture[1];
  • FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management[2], particularly to prevent and minimize soil contamination in order to maintain healthy soils and food safety;
  • The International Fertilizer Industry Association`s Product Stewardship Initiative[3], particularly to strive for zero-harm and environmental impact reduction.

Broad range of stakeholders

Our stakeholders include representatives of farming, business, government and civil society:

Agricultural producers who want to know more about nutrient and heavy metal contents in fertilizers in order to protect soil Decision makers interested in transparency and reducing potential health exposure risks associated with heavy metals
Food retailers seeking to ensure that food is grown with responsibly-chosen inputs Researchers engaged in innovative work that can help close relevant knowledge gaps
Gardeners who want transparency when it comes to choice of plant food Members of civil society wishing to secure healthy national food production basis for future generations of farmers
Concerned citizens that share an interest in reducing the environmental footprint of mineral fertilizers


Our core members are producers, processors and distributors of mineral fertilizers that are low in heavy metals:

We are always seeking new members to contribute to Safer PhosphatesTM, including research institutions, government and non-governmental bodies, farming organisations, and other stakeholders sharing an interest in promoting the use of purer phosphate-based fertilizers.

Join Safer Phosphates