Can fertiliser be blamed for mental health issues?
As far back as Roman times, the effect of heavy metals on mental health has been documented. In that case, the Romans paid the price of using lead pipes to carry their water.
Yet, studies of late have found the heavy metal Cadmium can be one of the worst offenders as far as mental health is concerned. ADD, ADHD, Bi-polar and schizophrenia have all been linked with excess cadmium in the body and brain.
A visiting US expert reported two years ago about the effects on mental health but was unaware of the major source of contamination in NZ.
Environment Waikato’s report regarding the state of the environment, first released in 2007 then withdrawn and then re released in 2008 would at first seem totally unrelated. It outlaid many issues facing the Waikato yet the one that has not been reported on to date and should have made headline news was the excess of Cadmium in the productive soils of the Waikato. These levels are over the World Health Organisation stated safe levels for food production and even for subdivision. From EW testing approximately 50,000 hectares are over these levels now, with the projection that levels would be over the safe level of 1ppm on the majority of the Waikato within the next 15 years.
But why? The original base level testing done as far back as the 1940’s show there was not an issue at less than .2ppm. So why are they projecting the problem will get worse?
Fertiliser! Well not any fertiliser, but phosphate fertiliser. Yes the products that are supposed to increase the wealth of the nation could well be destroying it. New Zealand agriculture has grown up using phosphate fertilisers. In fact the NZ farmers use more phosphate fertiliser per acre than any country in the world and this seems to be the problem. In times gone by the phosphate rock contained less than 40ppm of cadmium and yet even at these levels issues still come to the fore as offal’s from lamb have severe export restrictions. Offal’s taken from lambs six months of age and over are banned from exportation for human consumption as cadmium accumulates in the liver and kidneys.
What is most disturbing now though is material that is being used at present by the major fertiliser companies has up to seven times the quantity of Cadmium with stated maximum levels of 280ppm. This is quoted from their own literature
Environment Waikato although reporting on the issue, seem ambivalent to the issue and have issued no public warnings on the situation and the impending dangers other than the report itself.
Other questions also need to be asked as EW is sponsored by one of the major fertiliser companies for the Environment Awards, which would seem to be a contradiction.
Many farmers are shifting to more environmentally sustainable practices as they are concerned at what they are producing and the way that the market views their production methods. Nowhere could this be more evident than the latest series on Country Calendar and the extensive coverage of organic practices. It would seem that if there is to be any change it is really up to the buying public and environmentally friendly farmers to create the change as bureaucracy and big business certainly are not setting a very good example.