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
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
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
gear to help avoid secondary contamination.
With Tecnu® you can,
Live life. Get outdoors.™