Tuesday, 9 August 2011

BBC broadcasts biased items on ragwort

This morning on BBC Radio Lancashire's breakfast programme there was the most dreadful set of comments on ragwort. Amongst the most badly informed, biased and incorrect that I have ever come across. The presenter obviously badly misinformed by his guests carried on making similar comments during the programme.

It starts with an item in the car park with a representative from the NFU making very ill-informed comments. He talks nonsense about the seeds lasting 50 years in the ground. The resident "Environmental Expert" then makes a series of remarks about protective clothing and how dangerous it is to the touch and to people generally, that it accumulates in the liver and that it is even dangerous to dogs.
We learn in this clip that there is ragwort growing out of a wall in the BBC car park. The wall is in a dangerous state so it has been cordoned off.

Later in the programme the presenter says that it is the ragwort that has been cordoned off!

The dangerous to the touch thing isn't true.The chemicals in Ragwort have to undergo a number of decomposition steps in the body before they become
poisonous.They are poorly absorbed through the skin and the first
decomposition step to make them poisonous happens in the gut. So they
have to be eaten to be poisonous.

This web link leads to a short article co-authored by Dr Pieter Pelser
a New Zealand based Dutch scientist who is a leading world authority on
ragwort. He actually did his Phd on it. It gives you more details about
this myth and debunks it.

Animals have to eat the plant to be poisonous. Even if it were not true that the alkaloids could be absorbed in poisonous form through the skin they lethal doses are so high that they are usually measured as percentages of body weight. To scare people that it is dangerous to dogs is unacceptable.

Ragwort poisoning through skin absorption fact or fiction?

The seeds according to the research die off quite rapidly at first and small amounts survive longer. They certainly do not last fifty years. It appears that in most soils they are all gone after about sixteen years and in sandy soils a small number are still around at sixteen years.

You can listen to the extracted short clips from the programme here.

As ever scientifically researched material is available at the Ragwort Facts and the
Ragwort, Myths and facts sites.

The BBC complaints form is here
Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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