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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Oak processionary moth causes health threat

3rd August 2010

Experts have warned that a moth which causes damage to oak trees poses a potential health risk.


The caterpillar of the oak processionary moth has approximately 62,000 toxic hairs which can be blown off its body.

The toxic hairs can fall to the ground, where they can continue to cause problems for up to five years.

If a person comes into contact with these hairs, they may suffer from irritated eyes, an itchy skin rash and asthma attacks.

Trees affected by the moth are mainly in west London, with ten trees invaded by the moth in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

In 2009, 800 nests were found in around 500 trees in the gardens.

People who come into contact with the caterpillars' hairs release histamine, which provokes the allergic reactions.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of the Health Protection Agency in London, said: "The symptoms can vary and some people may experience itchy patches of puffy skin, persistent itchy raised spots, irritant dermatitis and itchy eyes."

Dr Elaine Vickers, research relations manager at Asthma UK, said: "The caterpillars pose a significant threat to people with asthma, as the toxin-containing bristles of the caterpillars can become airborne and trigger severe asthma attacks."

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