Saturday, 25 August 2012

The insidious skin myth.

One of the examples of how nasty the campaign against ragwort has been is the effect of the skin absorption myth. This is the false story that you can be poisoned by handling ragwort. You can get an allergic reaction from it, like many members of the daisy family, but the toxins that damage the liver are in the wrong form to cause problems.

This is someone being really worried by this myth on  a Gardening Forum

Hello there,
We have just got ourselves an allotment and are in the process of clearing it of weeds. Unfortunately, both of us have had a severe reaction to the weeds which we now realise is ragwort. After reading about the dangers of ragwort we are very worried as one listed danger was damage to the liver.
Can anybody reassure us that we will be okay?! At the moment we are covered in sore blistered spots. My daughter has had a particularly nasty reaction on her neck which is causing her severe pain. She is taking antibiotics for this at the moment as the doctor suspected it was a bad insect bite!
What bad luck! Someone please tell us we will be alright!
Thank you.
Well yes I can reassure you. The toxins are poorly absorbed, it takes a lot to poison you, and they are in the wrong form. I blogged about this before in detail. and they have already been given some details by someone else on the forum.
This is one of the really irritating things about this myth as people being scared and hurt by these insidious false stories. It can be really worrying to think you have been poisoned. You can hardly blame people, the story is all over the web and even in government publications, but  those of us  who have studied the science in detail know it isn't true.

It is pretty clear that this is an allergy.  What is important I think to these people is that they get the skin problems sorted and take care in future handling plants of the daisy family.
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  1. 'It is pretty clear that this is an allergy.'

    It could also be, of course, that it wasn't ragwort that did the damage. When I read this, I thought it sounded like the sort of phototoxic reaction caused by a variety of plants.

    1. A good point. It is always possible that it is something else that has been handled. Regular readers will also know that other plants are frequently misidentified as ragwort when they are actually something else.