Common Houseplant Can Kill Children in Under a Minute-Fiction!

Common Houseplant Can Kill Children in Under a Minute-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor
A forwarded email claims that a common houseplant is so toxic that it can kill a child in less than a minute and an adult in less than 15 minutes.
The Truth:
This killer houseplant claim is mostly false.
A forwarded email warning shows a picture of a common houseplant that has wide leaves that are green and cream-colored. The email warns that this is a killer houseplant:

This plant is common in Rwanda, in many offices and in homes. It is a deadly poison, mainly for the children. It can kill a kid in less than a minute and an adult in 15 minutes. It should be uprooted from gardens and taken out of offices. If touched, one should never touch ones eyes; it can cause permanent blindness. Please alert your buddies.

The so-called killer houseplant in the picture is actually a dieffenbachia, more commonly known as a “dumb cane.”  It’s true that the dumb cane is toxic, but this email warning overstates the potential for danger.
The British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre lists the dumb cane in its poison information database, but its warnings are pretty mild:

Is it toxic?

All parts of the plant contain needle-like oxalate crystals. If the plant is chewed the crystals are released and can cause intense pain and possible swelling of the mouth.

Health Effects:

Skin: Potential burning and itching from contact with the “juice ” of the plant. Handling of intact leaves is unlikely to cause symptoms.

Ingestion: Immediate pain and burning sensation of the mouth and lips. Possible swelling and blisters in mouth; more likely to occur if stem is chewed.

What to do?

Skin: Wash skin with soap and water and rinse thoroughly.

Ingestion: Rinse out mouth and drink a glass of milk. Sucking on a popsicle or an ice cube can help relieve discomfort in mouth. Eating some ice cream may also help

If symptoms persist after the above first aid measures contact the Poison Control Centre.

How can I prevent exposure?  Keep plant out of reach of small children. Wear gloves when cutting or trimming the plant.

The plant is called the dumb cane because it causes swelling of the mouth so severe that it’s victim can’t talk, the website Our Houseplants reports.

So, the dumb cane can have very unpleasant side effects, but the claim that it’s a killer houseplant is false.