Beware toxic house plants: the hidden dangers in your home

House plants may be an attractive addition to the home and some have health benefits too, even having the ability to absorb chemicals released by plastics – but beware; some familiar house plants can cause health issues in humans and pets. Here are just some of those to watch out for.

Toxic house plantsAloe Efficiently absorbs formaldehyde, benzene and the inner gel has been used for centuries to help heal burns and wounds and as a digestive aid. The outer skin is mildly toxic and irritable to the skin. Will irritate intestinal system in pets.

Dieffenbachia (leopard lily) Related to Philodendron, and contains calcium oxalate crystals.  Often located at floor level, due to its height, making it easy for children and pets to access.  It is a mild skin and eye irritant in humans and animals, causing mouth pain, excessive salivation and burning swelling numbness in the throat (hence it’s other common name: dumb cane).

Epipremnum (devil’s ivy) Another formaldehyde absorbing plant.  Easy to care for but toxic to humans and pets, causing mouth burning, skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat.  It also causes kidney failure in pets.

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) The plant contains oxalic acid and causes painful loss of voice, blistering, hoarseness and irritation to the mouth and throat. Its large size makes it easily accessible to children and pets.

Narcissus (daffodil) Highly toxic when ingested, causing severe stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.  Increases blood pressure, causes irregular heartbeat, tremors and occasionally death.

Oleander Ingestion of the nectar or just one leaf can cause irregular heartbeat, dizziness and tremors in humans.  Children and pets are vulnerable and additional pet symptoms include arrhythmia, vomiting and cold extremities.

Philodendron Absorbs formaldehyde and is easy to care for but is poisonous and contain calcium oxalate crystals which are toxic to humans. It causes eye and skin irritation, mouth and intestinal swelling and if ingested by pets can cause spasms, seizures, pain and swelling.

Sansevieria triasciata (mother in law’s tongue) This plant thrives under almost any conditions and is easy to grow. It absorbs formaldehyde and carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night, rather than daytime, making it a beneficial bedroom plant.  If ingested by pets it can cause gastrointestinal problems including drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and pain.

Spathiphyllum (peace lily) Absorbs formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene from the air. Toxic in humans causing burning and swelling of the lips, mouth and tongue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and difficulty swallowing.  Pets will suffer these symptoms plus dehydration and renal failure.

Christmas brings its own dangers, with the introduction of seasonal plants into the home. Watch out for:

Hyacinth (diarrhea, vomiting, death)
Mistletoe (berries can cause convulsions, death)
Poinsettia (oral irritation, vomiting)


– Check the toxicity of a plant before introducing it to your home
– Keep toxic plants out of the reach of toddlers and pets
– Educate older children to increase their awareness
– Remove fallen leaves
– Wear gloves when handling and wash hands afterwards

Back to February 2020 Newsletter