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BRIEF: Is there any danger in cutting and burning Nerium Oleander?


QUESTION:
I need to cut down and burn a large amount of nerium oleander plants. What is the danger of cutting down and burning of these plants and the smoke from the burning of these plants? I know that these plants are poison to animals and humans, but what about handling them and the smoke from burning them?

ANSWER:

According to Fuller and McClintock's Poisonous Plants of California, people have been poisoned by the smoke of incompletely burned oleander [perhaps from a low temperature fire] and some people do report skin irritation from the sap. I grew up in California and am familiar with the plant and its deadly effect on animals that ingest it, but have no first-hand knowledge of poisonous smoke from it. It would be reasonable to believe that if enough of the cardiac glycoside managed to hitch a ride on smoke particles without being itself burned up, then inhalation could be a possible route of intoxication. I suggest a very hot, fuel-aided fire and staying upwind from it.