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Are Poinsettias Poisonous?

Research:
Non-toxic to people & pets

By: Sandy Feather 2012
Penn State Extension


Q. I always enjoy poinsettias in my home over the Christmas holidays, but I recently got a kitten. I am concerned about him being poisoned if he eats the leaves -- He has been pretty tough on my other houseplants.

A. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are one of the most tested consumer plants on the market, but we have never been able to put the myth of their toxicity to rest. It started with the death of a child whose father was stationed in Hawaii in 1919 -- the 2-year-old's death was mistakenly attributed to eating poinsettia leaves. In 1971, Ohio State University tested all parts of the plant, including leaves and sap, and found it to be non-toxic to people and pets.


Pink Poinsettias

POISINDEX, the national information center for poison control centers, says that a 50-pound child would have to eat 500-600 leaves to exceed the experimental doses in the Ohio State study that found no toxicity.

 

Children and pets would be unlikely to eat more than a leaf or two due to the astringent nature of the sap and the unpleasant taste. The milky sap can cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals, and can inflame the more sensitive tissues in the mouth and esophagus. Those who consume enough of the plant may experience nausea and vomiting but nothing life-threatening.

Yellow poinsettia

In a study by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, there was no toxicity of any kind in 22,793 poinsettia exposures. The study was based on data collected nationwide by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Nevertheless, a 1995 survey by the Society of American Florists found that 66 percent of adult participants believed poinsettias to be toxic.

white poinsettia

You should be more concerned about the other houseplants your kitten has been after. Many common houseplants are toxic to cats, including asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), jade plant (Crassula argentea), dumbcane (Dieffenbachia), corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), pothos (Epipremnum aureum), amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.), lilies (Lilium spp.), heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron spp.) and peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.). While this is not an exhaustive list, it hits some of the most common houseplants known to be toxic to cats.

red poinsettias


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