To this day, there has been a persistent myth stating that Poinsettia’s were, indeed, poisonous. When this topic is brought up, a constant debate takes place.
Dating back to 1919 a father in the army claimed that the death of his two year old son was caused by digesting poinsettia leaves.
The American Society of Florists has looked into the matter extensively and says there was never any proof that poinsettia leaves were responsible for the child’s death and the report was later determined to be hearsay. The America Society of Florists joined with researchers at Ohio State University to test various parts of the poinsettia plant on rats. Their conclusion was that there was no toxicity or any other side effects even when the rats were given large doses.
POISENDEX is the source of poison information for the majority of poison control centers. It says that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than a pound-and-a-quarter of poinsettia leaves to exceed the doses used in the Ohio State research, which would be 500 to 600 leaves.
The American Society of Florists says no other consumer plant has been tested for toxicity more than the poinsettia.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Center in Urbana, Illinois says it regards poinsettias as having such low toxicity risk that it doesn’t even recommend decontaminating animals that may have ingested them. The center says that there can sometimes be gastrointestinal distress from having ingested something alien to the digestive system.
The American Veterinary Medicine Association of America (AVMA), doesn’t include poinsettias on its list of plants that are a threat to animals.
Because of the belief that poinsettias are toxic, there are numerous visits to hospitals each year by concerned parents or pet owners whose children or pet have ingested or in some other way been exposed to poinsettias.
A study released in 2000 by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University found that out of nearly 23,000 poinsettia exposures reported to poison control centers nationwide, there was essentially no toxicity of significance of any kind.