OSEA Safety Blog

The Dangers of Giant Hogweed

Saturday, October 10, 2020 Brenda Griffin

A green plant in a gardenDescription automatically generatedGiant Hogweed is a member of the carrot family that looks a lot like Queen Anne’s lace, except much larger. In fact, Giant Hogweed can grow as high as 14ft high and 5ft wide. While it may look pretty, it’s actually quite harmful – so never touch it!

So, what’s the problem? Sap from the plant contains harmful chemicals that cause a skin reaction making the skin extremely sensitive to light.

Once on the skin, the now light-sensitive skin reaction causes painful blisters which result in scars that can last from a few months to six years. If that’s not bad enough, getting the sap in your eyes can also cause blindness!

Should you get Giant Hogweed sap on your skin, it’s important to wash it off immediately as well as get out of the sun. Should you get it in your eyes, flush them with water immediately and wear sunglasses. Also, seek medical attention immediately.

It’s currently growing in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It’s an invasive species brought to the US in the early 20th century.

Because of the health risks associated with this plant, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a Hogweed Control Plan. Their website also includes photos of it, so you can study up and recognize it before coming into contact with it.

DEC also has maps of the state delineated where the plant has been found in the past, as well as steps to take should you happen upon it.

Here is a link to their dedicated webpage to the Hog Weed Control Program. https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/39809.html

It’s important to identify this hazardous plant and take steps to prevent contact as well as what to do if you have. Also know that removing the plants needs to be done by professionals so that the plant seeds do not continue to spread. Any sightings of the plant are to be reported to the DEC.

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