Climate Change: More Toxic Poison Ivy

By Caileen  |  Wednesday, December 16, 2015  |  , ,  |  Leave comment

Climate change impact on poison ivy

UH OH! Just when we thought poison ivy couldn't get any worse, the climate decides to add its two-cents worth. Over the past couple of years, we've all been subjected to what can only be described as a bi-polar climate, drastically differing from patterns past. Last winter Oregon was no exception as we experienced a remarkably dry season; if you're not familiar with the climate of western Oregon, a dry winter is highly unusual. So what does this mean for plant growth? More specifically, what does this mean for poison ivy (or, poison oak, poison sumac) growth? Quite a bit actually, but the most concerning is the increase in carbon dioxide.

Researchers have recently discovered that carbon dioxide not only fuels plant growth, but that it also modifies the toxic properties of plants such a poison ivy and poison oak. With climate changes and the global rise in carbon dioxide levels, studies have shown that these plants have become larger and even more poisonous. In 2006 USDA plant physiologist, Lewis Ziska discovered that poison ivy grew larger leaves and produced an even more toxic form of the plant's rash-causing resin, urushiol, when subjected to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

The following year, Ziska and his team at the USDA published another study further backing their initial findings. To conduct the experiment, a series of chambers were set up in which poison ivy plants were subjected to varying degrees of carbon dioxide. One chamber was set to carbon dioxide levels from the 1950s, the next set to present day levels, another set to projections of carbon dioxide levels in 2050, and the last to projected levels in 2090. Ziska and his team concluded that not only did the poison plants grow larger when subjected to higher levels of the gas, but also found that the plant's leaves were coated with greater amounts of urushiol.

What does this mean for outdoor professionals and workers? For those who are sensitive to urushiol, the possibility of more severe rashes is quite likely. Think about it, as it is, a concentration of urushiol the size of a grain of salt is potent enough to cause a painful, red, blistery rash in 80-90% of adults. As plants are exposed to greater and greater amounts of carbon dioxide, causing increases in urushiol, it's logical to assume that intensified rashes are to follow.

The bottom line is: poison ivy isn't going anywhere! Of course, you may already know our suggested solution for such a problem… Don't forget to pack your Tecnu® the next time you head out into luscious, green landscapes! Use Tecnu® to wash up as soon as possible to remove any urushiol you may have come into contact with; the sooner, the better! Also, use Tecnu® to clean your boots, clothing, and gear to help avoid secondary contamination.

With Tecnu® you can,

Live life. Get outdoors.™


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