How Far Does Urushiol Travel?

By Caileen  |  Friday, October 16, 2015  |  Not tagged  |  Leave comment

Does urushiol travel in burning poison ivy?

You've heard it from us year after year. Fall after fall. Some may say, at nauseam. DO NOT BURN POISON OAK OR POISON IVY PLANTS. Even if they appear to be dead. Urushiol remains active on the plants at all times, even in the fall and winter when the leaves have dropped. Burning the plants can cause the rash-causing oil, urushiol, to become airborne. If inhaled, urushiol can cause serious injury (swollen/inflamed lungs, swelling of the throat, coughing, blisters, etc.), even death. This is not a matter to be taken lightly.

Although this topic is nothing new, we were recently asked a question that related to our favorite fall topic. A consumer called and asked, "How far does urushiol travel in the smoke of burning poison ivy plants?" What a great question! How far does urushiol travel when airborne? This consumer was curious to know as his property (where he planned to burn) is located adjacent to a highway.

Unfortunately, it is one that we do not have the answer to. We have not done the proper testing, nor have we stumbled across testing performed by any of our peers, to form a reliable or educated guess. It's possible that it wouldn't travel very far, or, it could have the potential of a far reach. We can't be certain. What we do know: urushiol is carried in the heavy particles of smoke which fall in the form of soot, possible to inhale.

One thing we do know for sure, DO NOT BURN THE PLANTS. If you suspect that your pile of debris may contain poison oak or poison ivy plants, avoid burning. Find another way to dispose of your yard waste. If you're unsure, contact your local home and garden center for a recommendation.

Another reminder, be cautious about your firewood and know where it is coming from. If you cut your own wood, and break out after handling it, there is a good chance that the wood has been exposed to poison oak or ivy plants. Do not burn it. It's not worth the risk.

If ever you think you may have inhaled smoke from poison oak or ivy plants, seek medical attention immediately.

Be safe this fall!

Live life. Get outdoors.™

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