Gardens are beautiful and full of unexpected surprises. Every time you go outside to mow your lawn or prune your plants, you may be coming into contact with something that could pose a serious health threat to you, your family, and your pets. These dangers are way less obvious than insecticides and bee stings, but after reading this you won’t forget these risks are right in your backyard. Here are seven surprising dangers lurking in your garden:
If you have roses or other thorny plants in your garden, you’re probably well aware of the pain associated with a thorn scratch or puncture. But you probably didn’t know that you can also contract tetanus, a bacterial disease, from a puncture wound or scratch from the thorns of roses or brambles. When the skin is punctured, bacteria-laden soil and other matter enter the wound. Tetanus can have devastating effects on the nervous system, which often begin with spasms in the jaw and a stiff or locked jaw.
What may look like a tasty truffle could actually be a wild and poisonous mushroom growing in your backyard. Though many wild mushrooms that grow in backyards and gardens are not poisonous, a few can be deadly if ingested. The amanitas, the false morels, and a range of little brown mushrooms (LBMs) are poisonous and can cause anything from stomachaches and vomiting to respiratory failure and death. Wild mushrooms, even the non-poisonous kinds, should not be eaten.
The picnic tables you eat on, the decks you sit on, and the play sets your children use may have something dangerous in common. Many of the older outdoor wood products that we use today still contain trace amounts of arsenic. Although the wood industry no longer uses arsenic in its pressure-treated products, old wood products may be a health risk to you and your family. Arsenic can leach out when the treated wood gets wet and spread to toys and skin.
Sago palms are spiky, green plants that are painful to tough and are extremely poisonous to both humans and animals if ingested. These seeded plants are particularly dangerous to cats, dogs, and horses because they find it palatable. All parts of the sago palm are toxic, with the highest level of the toxin, cycasin, in the seeds. Ingestion of the plant could result in several severe symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, melena, and death. If any part or quantity of the plant is ingested, call poison control or your veterinarian immediately.
For the most part, ants are harmless, but one particular species has been known to take over gardens and cause severe allergic reactions and painful bites in those who step on their mounds. These invasive and destructive pests are particularly bad in the South, but have made their way up to several other states around the U.S. Fire ants emerge when their mound is disturbed and aggressively sting victims, resulting in a painful, round pustule.
Working in the garden often means subjecting yourself to loud mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and other noisy lawn care tools. If you’re using loud tools, or within earshot of them, your hearing could become damaged over time. It’s important to limit your exposure to loud noise and wear hearing protection when you cannot avoid such exposure. Earplugs, canal caps, or muffs will help protect your ears and reduce your risk of hearing loss.
Skin damage in the shade:
Even if you seek shade under a tree or umbrella while gardening, you may still be exposed to skin-damaging UV rays that have been scattered by clouds or UV-reflective surfaces, such as water or concrete. Although seeking shade is still better than sitting in direct sunlight, indirect or diffused UV light can be just as dangerous and damaging to your skin. Wearing sun-protective clothing, a wide-brim hat, sunglasses, and seeking deep shade are your best forms of protection from the sun.