Staff allergy prompts poinsettia ban at Bell’s biggest office

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A poinsettia ban will protect a worker from a potentially deadly allergic reaction at a large Mississauga office complex.

“Please make sure all personal plants on desks and other office areas are also removed by Dec. 21,” the memo by property manager Nexacor said. “Any plants found after Dec. 21 will be removed and disposed of without further notification.”

Bell Canada issued the ban at the campus, which consists of three interconnected buildings, because the employee could have a life-threatening reaction.

Bell spokesman Mark Langton said it was “the safest thing to do” and workers were supportive until the memo, which incorrectly included all plants in the ban.

“They were being a little overzealous and we’ve told them to relax. The poinsettia ban is much more serious,” Langton said.

The allergic employee has been with Bell for 30 years and recently transferred from a small call centre in Scarborough, where the poinsettia ban was already in place.

Langton said the policy applies to all three buildings because the employee’s doctor warned contact with any poinsettia or its residue could be life-threatening.

“The ban has low impact on people relative to the possible negative outcomes for a fellow team member,” said Langton. “It could send her into anaphylactic shock.”

Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist and a professor in McMaster University’s department of immunology and allergy, told the Toronto Star such a reaction is extremely unlikely.

She said the sap of poinsettias shares common proteins with latex — just like bananas or kiwis — and someone with a severe latex allergy could possibly have an anaphylactic reaction.

But the individual would have to come in “direct contact” with the sap for a reaction to potentially be life-threatening, said Waserman, adding she’s never encountered or heard of that happening.

“If somebody even handles the poinsettia, that’s very unlikely to cause a life-threatening reaction in most circumstances. This would have to be extremely unusual.”

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