UKTC Archive

RE: Poisonous Plants

Subject: RE: Poisonous Plants
From: Paul Smith
Date: Mar 23 2012 15:23:59
Hi Joe,

The world's gone mad. It's all well and good aiming criticism at the H&S bods 
but actually it's society at large that's to blame (IMHO.)

The document several have referred to about children's play provision and a 
balanced and proportionate approach to risk is here


Paul Smith
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-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Atkinson [] 
Sent: 23 March 2012 10:09
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: Poisonous Plants

Hello Forum
My colleagues and I have been working with our schools to promote ecological 
learning. Many schools, particularly Primaries, now have Forest Schools, 
often featuring newly planted small woodlands and hedges with an emphasis on 
native species, thus including Privet, Spindle, Rowan, Holly and Wayfaring 
Our colleague in the H&S team advising schools is recommending that Holly is 
removed from all primaries, as the only text he can refer to is MAFF's 
'Poisonous Plants & Fungi' (HMSO 1988), in which pretty much everything is 
'poisonous' and 'potentially lethal'.
We feel very strongly that to systematically remove all Holly (and 
potentially everything else described in his book as poisonous!) is very poor 
risk management, being grossly disproportionate to the risk.
Rather like poor old Saddam, we are finding it difficult to prove a
negative: there is no solid data on toxicity and incidences of poisoning by 
plants, we suspect because it quite simply never occurs.
Our case is that, whilst a goat might chew enough Holly berries to receive a 
toxic dose of glycosides, no child is ever likely to because it is not 
palateable. Berry in, chew, immediately spit out?
Does anyone have any suggestions for sources of information on this subject? 
To date, I have researched HSE stats, the Institute of Biomedical Science, 
the Royal College of Pathology and Royal College of General Practitioners. 
None of these have any information, opinion or advice to offer, other than 
HSE advice to try the HPA.
I have found an HPA/NPIS leaflet on "Low Toxicity Substances" which includes 
Holly. The NPIS is proving elusive, but I do now have a phone number for 
their equivalent in Wales, via the Public Health Board.
Our H&S colleague is not an unreasonable man, and has a difficult job to do. 
We agree that Laburnum and Cherry Laurel are not appropriate planting in 
Primary School settings. We need to support him in unearthing better guidance 
than he is currently using, so that children can safely learn about native 
plants and risk assessment.
Any help will be very much appreciated!
Best wishes
Joe Atkinson, FdSc, TechArborA.
Arboricultural Officer
Room 704B
Green Team, Streetscene
Newport City Council
NP20 4UR
01633 XXXXXX

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