Safety Tips & Reminders

Check your home for toxic plants

Source: David Trinklein, 573-882-9631; Karen Funkenbusch, 573-884-1268

COLUMBIA, Mo. – It is estimated that more than 700 plant species growing in North America can have harmful effects on humans, said University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein.

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Many plant poisonings occur when curious children are attracted to colorful berries and blooms on plants within their reach. Their low body weight makes plant toxicity higher in children than adults, said MU Extension safety and health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

A poisonous plant can cause symptoms ranging from allergic reactions such as rashes to internal poisoning, said Trinklein. Common poisonous household and garden plants include azaleas, caladium, calla lily, elephant’s ear, foxglove, holly berries, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris (leaves, roots and rhizomes), larkspur, morning glory, oleander, peace lily, periwinkle, philodendron, potato plant leaves, pothos, rhubarb leaves, wisteria and yew. For a more complete list, go to ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2009/3/Plants-That-Can-Harm.

Funkenbusch gives these tips to avoid poisoning:

• Educate yourself on what plants are harmful.

• Remove poisonous plants from your home until children are older.

• Keep plants out of the reach of children. Check day care centers and homes your child visits often.

• Instruct children never to put plants or plant parts in their mouths.

• Do not use flowers or plant parts for food unless you know their production history. Pesticides used on ornamental plants are not labeled for food plants.

If you think someone has ingested a poisonous plant, take immediate action. Remove the plant from the person’s mouth and give them water. Call the Poison Control help line at 800-222-1222, your local hospital or 911 emergency center. Try to identify the plant and collect a small sample, if possible, to give to the medical professional.

Program the Poison Control help line into your phone to be prepared, said Funkenbusch. The number works anywhere in the United States 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Poisonous plants have been a part of our daily lives for years. Their presence is not a cause for alarm as long as we know the dangers involved and are aware of the risk implied by their presence,” said Trinklein.

For more information on National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, go to missouripoisoncenter.org.