What is it about hogweed — and lemons and limes — that can cause burns? | Science News

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What is it about hogweed — and lemons and limes — that can cause burns?

When exposed to sunlight, chemicals in the juice and sap damage DNA

By
10:00am, June 22, 2018
giant hogweed plant

SAP + RAYS = BURN The giant hogweed contains chemical compounds that, when activated by sunlight, can burn exposed skin. The plant is in the Umbelliferae family, which also counts celery, carrots, parsnip, dill and fennel as members.

Another warning to add to the summertime list: check for ticks, go inside during lightning … and hands off the giant hogweed. Getting the plant’s sap on the skin, along with exposure to sun, can lead to severe burns.

All good advice, but the invasive plant, which looks like Queen Anne’s lace on steroids, and was recently spotted in Virginia, isn’t the only vegetation that contains the burn-causing chemical compounds. Furocoumarins can be found in the fruit and vegetable bins of most refrigerators. Limes, lemons, parsnip, fennel, dill and members of the mulberry family are some of the plants that have furocoumarins.

The chemicals make the skin more prone to sunburn. It takes from 30 to 120 minutes for the skin to absorb furocoumarins from the plant’s juice or sap. With sun exposure, ultraviolet A radiation activates the chemical compounds, which then bind to and damage DNA. Those cells with the damaged DNA die, leaving behind a burn. The

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