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Poinsettia allergy leads to office-wide ban at Ontario company

Telecommunications company Bell Canada has banned poinsettia plants from its office after finding out that one of its employees is allergic.

After finding out about one of its employee's poinsettia allergy, telecommunications company Bell Canada has banned the plant at its Creekbank campus in Mississauga, Ontario, reports The Toronto Star.

The building's property manager sent out a memo notifying the six thousand employees that they must remove all live plants from their desks by December 21, after which they will be subject to random inspections. However, following negative reactions to the memo, Bell Spokesman Mark Langton clarified that the ban is for poinsettias only and that there will not be any random inspections.

According to the source, the allergic employee recently transferred from another Bell location, but has been with the company for 30 years. Her doctor said that any contact with the plant could be potentially life-threatening, so Bell is doing what it can to make sure it's a safe environment.

Doctors and specialists told the source that a severe reaction to a poinsettia plant – which has proteins similar to latex -  is extremely rare, and unlikely to be life-threatening. Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada, said that she'd never heard of such a case.

"If somebody even handles the poinsettia, that's very unlikely to cause a life-threatening reaction in most circumstances," explained Dr. Susan Waserman, an allergist and a professor in McMaster University's department of immunology and allergy. "This would have to be extremely unusual."

Still, Bell seems to be operating under the principle that it's better to be safe than sorry.

While it's important for people with allergies to be upfront with their employers about possible triggers, there are actions that can be taken at work and at home to make both environments more comfortable. Those who suffer from pollen or mold allergies – and who may come in contact with these allergens throughout the day – might want to invest in a whole house air purifier to reduce their symptoms.

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