Poinsettias are not poisonous. For nearly eight decades, this rumor has continued to circulate because of one unfounded story in 1919: that an Army officer's two year old child allegedly died after eating a poinsettia leaf. While never proved by medical or scientific fact and later determined to be hearsay, the story has taken on a life of it's own. But, the defenders of the poinsettia have pulled out all the scientific stops to allay public fears.
The Society of American Florists (SAF) worked with the Academic Faculty of Entomology at Ohio State University (OSU) to exhaustively test all parts of the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). OSU researchers established that rats exhibited no adverse effects - no mortality, no symptoms of toxicity, and no changes in dietary intake or general behavior patterns - when given even unusually large amounts of different poinsettia parts. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) accepts animal tests as valid indicators whether any product or natural growth is harmful to human health.
The OSU research was conducted 23 years ago and other sources have continued to reinforce the poinsettia's safety.
According to the American Medical Association's Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, other than occasional cases of vomiting, ingestio of the poinsettia plant has been found to produce no effect.
After reviewing all available poinsettia related information, the CPSC denied a petition in 1975 to require warning labels for poinsettia plants. Despite its continued circulation, the myth of the poinsettia is gradually losing steam. Source: Society of American Florists
In a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine 22,793 cases of poinsettia exposures were electronically analyzed. 98.9% of the exposures were accidental with 93.9% involving children. 96.1% of the exposed patients were not treated in a health care facility and 92.4% did not require any type of therapy.
For more information, visit www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/poinsettia/faq.cfm