Warnings of unseen dangers in Moray’s environment

Giant Hogweed – endemic around Forres.

People in Moray are being warned of environmental issues that could prove seriously detrimental to human and animal health.

The ‘endemic’ spread of a dangerous plant in and around Forres has already threatened the life of a family pet, while traces of a toxic chemical has been noted in the River Lossie.

Giant Hogweed produces a sap that has been shown to cause severe chemical burns – and is being blamed for injuries to a dog that saw large boils appear on its skin. A local vet had to shave the animals head and neck and it now faces treatment with steroids for up to a year.

The dog’s owner Tess Keennan said the injuries to her dog appeared 24 hours after the pair visited Sanquhar Pond. She said: “Beau was holding her head in a strange way and looking very sorry for herself. When I examined her she had two cuts on her nose.

“I could not understand what was the problem and was looking around the house to see how she could have cut herself.

“I thought she might have had an allergic reaction but the vet pinpointed the problem was to do with giant hogweed.”

Native to Central Asia, giant hogweed is thought to have been brought to the UK by Victorians who admired the plants flowers. Its sap causes severe inflammations in which the flesh will turn red and starts to itch, with blisters forming within 48 hours.

A Moray Council spokesman said that an inspection will be carried out and if giant hogweed is found on land for which they are responsible it will be dealt with.

Meanwhile the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) are reporting that traces of a chemical that disrupt hormones and which are banned in Europe have been found in the River Lossie and several other Scottish rivers.

Nonylphenols shrink testicles and decrease male fertility – it has been detected in clothes imported from the Far East where no restrictions on its use exists. A SEPA spokesman said: “Monitoring will continue to investigate the potential measures needed to support the long-term goal of removing this chemical from the natural environment.”

The spokesman stressed that while the presences of the chemicals in rivers did pose a long-term threat to wildlife, of the 20 rivers tested only one – the River Irvine in Ayrshire – had breached the agency’s own quality standards.

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