Safety share: Native poisonous plants
The Chicagoland region is home to poisonous plants that, when touched, can create potentially dangerous reactions.
Know how to identify these plants so they can be avoided
- Poison ivy has a stem that produces groups of three glossy leaflets with rounded or toothed edges. It grows as a small shrub on the ground or as a vine climbing up fences, trees or poles.
- Poison oak has a stem that produces groups of three fuzzy leaflets with deeply toothed or rounded tips. Like poison ivy, it grows as a small shrub on the ground or as a vine climbing up fences, trees or poles.
- Poison sumac has clusters of seven to 13 long, smooth-edged leaflets. It grows as a tall shrub or as a small tree in bogs or swampy areas.
Tips to avoid an allergic reaction
- Cover your skin by wearing long pants, long socks, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes.
- Wear impermeable gloves if you are working around plants.
- Apply ivy-block lotion to your skin to keep harmful oils from getting into your skin.
- Destroy poisonous plants in gardens or along paths in common walking areas with a herbicide.
- Do not burn the plants as the smoke can cause a severe allergic reaction.
- Avoid areas with dense vegetation, natural paths and wooded areas where these plants could grow.
In the event that you inadvertently make contact with a poisonous plant, you might see or feel an oily substance called urushiol which causes an allergic reaction when exposed to skin. The plant’s oil can remain active on clothing, pets and other objects and then transfer to the skin. The reaction’s severity depends on a person’s susceptibility to the oil.
What to do when you see a poisonous plant on campus
At Argonne, if you think that you have been exposed to one of these plants, report to Medical in Building 201 or call 911 from land lines or (630) 252-1911 from cell phones.
If you spot any of these plants along common walking areas, please report it to email@example.com.
This safety share, courtesy of Quinn Matula (HSE), provides additional information on poisonous plants and how to protect one’s self. Please print this information and use it to help kick off a team discussion at your next meeting with colleagues and/or staff.
Each month a safety share submitted by an individual will be selected to receive a Spot Award for demonstrated safety leadership. The Spot Award program offers three award levels: gold ($100), silver ($50) and bronze ($25).