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Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Commentary :: Environment & Food

Liverworts, To Be Or Not To Be

Any well watered pot in the Santa Cruz area is likely to sprout Liverworts.
Click on image for a larger version

The following question was asked by a Santa Cruz fern gardener:

"I have several containers where I grow ferns that require constant humidity. Some of these containers have colonies of liverworths, which I would like to eliminate. Mechanical removal is painstakingly difficult. I´ve been told that applying quaternary ammonium with a brush could be a solution. Has anyone had experience with this?"

Personally I love liverworts and have no experience trying to get rid of them. I love to look at them and imagine little gnome forests and think of how they are one of most primitive land plants, potentially very similar to the ancestors of ferns.

I am also a big opponent of using pesticides, especially for purely "aesthetic" reasons. The world could live better with fewer chemicals like quaternary ammonium being released into it.

The following warnings about quaternary ammonium are from the web page of Chemical Safety Information from Intergovernmental Organizations in cooperation with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS):

2.1 Main risk and target organs

Quaternary ammonium compounds can cause toxic effects by all routes of exposure including inhalation, ingestion, dermal application and irrigation of body cavities. Exposure to diluted solutions can cause mild and self-limited irritation. Concentrated solutions of quaternary ammonium compounds are corrosive and can cause burns to the skin and the mucous membranes. They can produce systemic toxicity due to their curare-like properties. They can also cause allergic reactions.

2.2 Summary of clinical effects

Mild to severe caustic burns of the skin and mucous membranes can occur depending on the agent and the concentration. Other signs may include: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, anxiety, restlessness, coma, convulsions, hypotension, cyanosis and apnoea due to respiratory muscle paralysis; death may occur within 1 or 3 hours after ingestion of concentrated solutions. Haemolysis and methaemoglobinemia have been reported infrequently.

2.3 Diagnosis

Diagnosis depends essentially on prior history and presentation of specific signs and symptoms. These may include gastrointestinal symptoms, pain, burning sensation or local ulceration depending on the site of exposure and the concentration of the solution.

In addition they state:

"Repeated occupational exposure after handling quaternary ammonium compounds as powders or solutions can produce sensitization (Shmunes & Levy, 1972; Oritiz-Frutos et al., 1996; Placucci et al., 1996; Krogsrud & Larsen, 1997)."

I would add that the long-term impacts of many dangerous chemicals on the body and the environment in general are often either not known or are hidden from us by powerful corporations and the governments and media they control. Sensitization to one chemical can often sensitize one to many other chemicals. In addition exposures to chemicals that are damaging in the short term often cause cancers over time.

If you have pets, or enjoy seeing other living things around your plants such as birds or even invertebrates (as I do) then you should also consider their health.

I would suggest that if you do not like Liverworts you pluck them out of your flowerpots by hand. You said you have several pots where you see this as problem. I cannot see where adding a dangerous chemical would be seen as being better than taking a little extra time to do some work that ensures a healthy environment for all of us.

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Re: Liverworts, To Be Or Not To Be

Steve -

Would you classify Roundup as an equally dangerous substance?

I have a neighbor who seems to be obsessed with it. She has her own spray applicator and uses it at least once a week! I know that it can't be good. Any suggestions that you might have for safer alternatives that I could give her? The only flowering plants that she has in her yard are azaeleas and roses.


The Toxicity Of RoundUp

The active ingredient of Roundup is N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (shortened to Glyphosate). It is absorbed through the leaves and acts to inhibit the production of an essential plant and bacterial enzyme called enolpyruvylshikimate-phosphate synthase (EPSPS).

Glyphosate is the same active ingredient as is found in “Rodeo? and “Accord? as well as Monsanto’s “Roundup?.

The initial studies of the toxicity of Glyphosphate done by Monsanto at the time the product was released to the market have been ruled to have been fraudulent. In addition New York State’s Attorney General in two lawsuits has successfully challenged Monsanto’s advertising claim that their product is harmless.

There have been very few scientific studies of the toxicity of RoundUp, but strong anecdotal evidence does exist. In humans RoundUp has been linked to central nervous system damage, body swelling in legs, face and abdomen; visual, hearing, taste, and smell disturbances; balance disorder; body-wide muscle twitches and tics; seizure disorder; muscle paralysis; peripheral neuropathy; loss of gross motor skills and loss of fine motor skills.

A child who swam in a canal contaminated with high levels of RoundUp in Florida was paralyzed for five years and suffered severe nerve damage afterwards. (The Progressive, July 1987)

Studies in animals have found that female animals are much more susceptible to the toxicity of RoundUp than males.

In addition in a study on “Vision?, a glyphosate product by Monsanto, revealed that it contained 1,4-dioxane at a level of 350 ppm. (Monroe). 1,4-dioxane is carcinogenic, and is known to damage the liver, kidney, brain, and lungs.

I can see no conceivable reason to justify spraying RoundUp around a yard where humans and animals live, but Monsanto has convinced massive numbers of people around the world to do just that.

In addition Monsanto has now developed genetically modified Soybeans and Canola that can withstand massive amounts of Roundup poisoning and 90 percent of these crops are now grown through this method of extremely toxic agriculture that will result in many known and unknown problems for the environment and human health.


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