Urushiol Stats

It seems like anyone who's encountered Poison Oak or Ivy seems to have a rather strong opinion about the plant and its effects. Here's some stats that will help you contribute to the next conversation... Whether or not they actually listen to you is yet to be determined. 

Urushiol (pronounced “ooo-roo-she-awl” - which is derived from the Japanese name for lacquer “urushi”) is the common oily mixture of organic compounds found on plants like Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac. Urushiol is the reason the majority of us get the terrible 2+ week rash after our skin touches Poison Oak, Ivy or Sumac.

  • 50 Million Americans every year are affected by Urushiol.
  • 85% of the population is allergic to Urushiol.
    • Sensitivity/allergic reaction can happen at any point in one’s life.
    • The more one is exposed to Urushiol, the higher the chance of developing an allergic reaction.
    • The most common allergy in the United States
  • 10-15% of the population are extremely allergic (need immediate medical help after exposure).
  • All 48 of the contiguous states have Poison Oak, Ivy and/or Sumac.
    • Only 2 states without any of these plants are Alaska and Hawaii.
  • 500 people could develop a rash based off the amount of Urushiol covering the head of a pin.
    • 1/4 ounce of urushiol could cause a rash for every person on earth
    • Only 1 nanogram (billionth of a gram) needed to cause rash
  • The saying “leaves of 3 let them be” doesn’t always work.
    • Some of these plants have branches with groups of 3 leaves, but others have groups of 5, seven or nine leaves.
  • Urushiol is colorless and odorless, but is sticky. Think of it’s consistency like an invisible car grease.
  • Urushiol can last for up to 5 years.
    • The oil can remain on dead leaves or any other surfaces/gear for this long.
  • The itchy rash that comes from contact with Urushiol typically does not start until 1-2 days after exposure.
  • The rash is not contagious.
    • This includes the seeping liquid that might come from the rash.
    • Many times when people think the rash has spread post-rash, it’s because there has been oil left on a piece of clothing or gear.