This post is by Kathe's chemistry teacher/sister, and at Kathe's request, I have reviewed the entire string on this subject, as well as the website recommended by Mr. Bard. Allow me to offer some observations and clarifications.
Perhaps a part of the misunderstanding in this discussion comes from the inconsistent use of the words "organic", inorganic", "mineral" and "element".
Chemically speaking: "Organic
" refers to any compound that includes CARBON as its fundamental unit. That means that Petroleum is "organic" by chemical definition!! "Inorganic
" covers all the others. So we must be careful not to use these terms indiscriminately within different communities....they simply do not mean the same thing in different situations. That is why it is very important to use terminology consistently and correctly.
-- from perspective of their listing on the periodic table of elements -- compose the vast majority of the elemental substances on our earth and in the universe (as far as we know). Metallic elements combine with nonmetallic elements to form what are called MINERALS
. These minerals are dissolved in solution in our oceans, and in fact in all freshwater bodies as well. They are found in underground reservoirs. When they evaporate naturally, they form the beautiful figures found in caves and when they are excreted by sea creatures they form the marvelous coral reefs. They are harvested by humans from the earth and from the oceans in a crystallized form that results from evaporation, or the removal of the minerals from an aqueous solution (dissolved in water). The "salt flats" in Utah are the mineral deposits left behind when a huge ocean evaporated from that region.
Here is a point of importance in the discussion: SALT is a commercial marketing word used for the chemical compound Sodium Chloride. "Salt Substitute", another commercial name, is actually the chemical compound Potassium Chloride.
The word "Salt" is a chemical
term for crystallized, mineral compounds that, when dissolved in water, conduct electricity.
These compounds are important for living things, because they
a)assist conduction of electrical impulses in the nervous systems of animals (sodium and potassium are crucial to the proper functioning of and structural integrity of cells)
b) provide structural components in the bodies of living things (calcium and phosphorus are incorporated in the bones of vertebrates) and
c) provide the chemical ionizing power that allows some metabolic processes to occur (example: iron binds oxygen to red blood cells).
It is true that the mineral content of our oceans is vast and extremely beneficial to many organisms. The bottom of the oceanic food chain is the microscopic organisms that survive on the elemental compounds of the ocean, in solution with water. These organisms are algae. The algae of the ocean perform photosynthesis, and these algae are consumed by single celled organisms as well as small animals. The small animals feed the larger animals, and so on. Decomposers break down wastes and dead organisms and return the minerals and elements to the water. This is similar to the food chains that exist on land, with the producers using elemental substances to form their own food, and providing food for the consumers.
Why the primer on chemical terminology and ecology? The misuse -- or abuse -- of these terms often misleads the general public.
The average vitamin pill contains metallic elements that are necessary to human health. However; when taken in too high a dose, these vitamin pills can create a toxic metabolic situation. Most people who "overdose" on vitamins simply pass the excess in their stool. However, some can be poisoned!! Small children have been poisoned by eating too many of their fruit-flavored vitamins. These now carry a warning that they should be kept out of reach of children!
This same principal holds true with ocean water. It is not just water. It is not just "salt" dissolved in water. It is several elemental compounds dissolved in water. Condensing anything just means boiling the water out of it. Reconstituting or diluting it decreases its concentration. Just as land-dwelling animals cannot tolerate ocean water, land-dwelling plants cannot tolerate it. They can take it for a short amount of time, in small doses that are diluted, but they cannot incorporate all the elements, and instead, the water evaporates and the SALTS are left behind to toxify the soil. This is the same principal as the overdose of vitamin pills.
This is why a product such as the one described in the recommended website is diluted for application. This is practical and economical. The thing that is NOT practical about this, however, is that there are metallic elements -- in abundance -- in ocean water, that should NOT be applied to our soil. Some will be incorporated into plant material, but many will remain as "salts" in the soil. And they will build up and they will toxify it.
Our ocean shores are inhabited by a special group of plants and animals that can thrive in a freshwater-saltwater habitat. These habitats are extremely productive and beneficial to all life on land and in the ocean. But they have specific metabolic processes, and their environment -- the estuary -- tempers the salt content of the land and water on which they depend. It is an ecological ballet that has not been reproduced by man.
My concern about using ocean water, however diluted, is that the excess minerals applied are not meant to be there. They will not be incorporated into a healthy ecosystem, and they will contribute to the development of chemical salinity in freshwater systems, overload of the soil, and failure of plant life to take up necessary nutrients. Just as freshwater fish cannot survive for long in the ocean, land-based organisms cannot tolerate ocean water in their soil. Put a tadpole in a bucket of ocean water and see what happens.
I hope that my comments will be helpful. There is certainly a possibility that I am missing something. But my intention is to inform and clarify. The research to which I have access is incomplete and does not provide imperical data. I must rely upon a fundamental understanding of life processes and geological principles in discussing this topic. I hope you learned something new! I know that I did! And in closing, please understand that I view this forum as a fantastic exchange that you are all lucky to have.
Peace and blessings,
Kimberly Berg, B.A. Biology/Life & Earth Science