Poison warning after swan plant sap leaves Northland man blind

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A plant scientist is warning of the dangers of the sap from swan plants which left a man from Whangarei in Northland blind.

Whangarei's Bob Wallman still has vision problems, months after accidentally blinding himself with poisonous sap from a swan plant.
Source: Seven Sharp

Bob Warman poisoned himself while pruning the very common garden plants nine months ago and his eyesight is still recovering, Seven Sharp reports.

Mr Warman got some of the swan plant sap on his arm and said it must have got into his eyes when he used his arm to wipe away perspiration.

When his eyes started to itch that evening he put in drops, but he woke early next morning and realised his sight was gone. 

"It had the effect that I was looking through frosted glass," he said.

Landcare Research is well aware of the dangers posed by swan plants, especially the sap. 

"I don't think people realise how toxic they are," said plant scientist David Glenny.

"The milky sap that's in the stems and leaves of the plants, that is really quite poisonous, either as a contact poison or if you swallow it," he said.

Unable to use his phone, Mr Warman managed to get to the local emergency room and a doctor's diagnosis was "the most comprehensive case of self administered poisoning that he's even seen". 

Mr Warman hopes his story will help clear up any ignorance about the dangers of swan plant sap. 

Rebecca Edwards investigates more common plants with the potential to cause problems.
Source: Seven Sharp

Meanwhile, a Whangarei kindergarten defended cutting down swan plants as part of the children's learning.

"We've done a lot of, I guess, reflection around weighing up the risks of having swan plants in our environment. And for us we manage having them in here by talking to the children about keeping themselves safe around swan plants," said Zair Taylor of the kindergarten.

The children are taught about the dangers of the sap and to wash their hands if they touch it.

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