Houseplants provide a number of benefits in addition to the aesthetic value they bring to a home. They renew stale indoor air through the exchange of carbon dioxide as well as trap common indoor pollutants, report researchers at the American Association of Poison Control Center. While they are beautiful to look at, many houseplants contain chemical compounds that can be dangerous to pets and people. Call a poison control number or go the emergency room if a toxic plant has been ingested.
The aloe vera plant has wide, thick leaves that, when cut open, provide soothing relief for burns, making it a popular household plant. The juice in the aloe can cause dermatitis in people with sensitive skin. To use the aloe plant safely, cut deeply in to the leaf and use only the clear gel inside. The yellow fluid, or latex, is the poisonous culprit. Aloe should be used only on skin surfaces and never ingested. Ingesting aloe can irritate the large intestine and cause vomiting. A component of aloe was once commonly used in laxatives and to treat cancer, report researchers at the American Cancer Society, but the Food and Drug Administration banned internal use in 2003.
The leaves, stalk and latex in poinsettias can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals as well as vomiting or diarrhea if ingested. Poinsettias are common plants around Christmas time. Researchers at the American Association of Poison Control Center report that poinsettias are no longer considered extremely toxic. It is a myth that the plant is lethal. Instead, the milky substance in the stalk mostly affects the skin and can cause redness and itching when it gets in the eyes.
Hydrangeas can cause severe itching and rashes in those who handle the plants and develop sensitivity to the toxins. When ingested, the hydrangea can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains. Instances of lethargy and coma have been reported as a result of ingesting hydrangeas. The flowers are rounded and come in a variety of colors ranging from blue to pink, red, white and purple.
The peace lily, sometimes referred to as the Easter lily, is commonly seen around the Christian holiday in the spring. According to gardeners at the New York Botanical Gardens, the lily can be dangerous to pets and small children when ingested. All parts of the plant are toxic because they contain calcium oxalate. Initially after eaten, the plant causes intense swelling and irritation in the mucus membrane, creating swelling in the mouth, lips and palate.