Schools told to chop down poisonous trees in central Vietnam

By VnExpress   April 23, 2017 | 11:45 pm PT
Nearly 60 children were hospitalized last week after eating seeds from the trees.

Schools in central Vietnam have been ordered to cut down a species of tree that allegedly hospitalized nearly 60 children last week after they ate the seeds that had fallen from its shady branches.

Education authorities in Nghe An Province, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Hanoi, sent out the order at the weekend, calling on schools to chop down all sandbox trees in school ground, even though there were no fatal cases reported last week. 

In the first case, children at an elementary school were playing under a sandbox tree in Cua Lo Town last Thursday when some of them picked up and ate seeds from the trees. Shortly after, more than 20 were rushed to a local hospital suffering from nausea and abdominal pains.


The sandbox tree in Quy Chau District Middle School. Photo by VnExpress/Ke Kien

The next day, another 37 teenagers were also hospitalized in the province's Quy Chau District after eating sandbox tree seeds in their school grounds. In both cases, all the children made a quick recovery following treatment, doctors said.

“Sandbox tree seeds contain a substance poisonous to the digestive tract and liver," said Vi Van Thang, the deputy director of a medical center in Quy Chau District. "Eating the seeds can cause headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. Severe cases can even cause gastrointestinal bleeding and neurological disorders.” 


Seeds from a sandbox tree in Quy Chau District, Nghe An Province. Photo by VnExpress/Ke Kien.

The sandbox tree, or hura crepitans as it is known by its scientific name, is an evergreen tree native to tropical regions in North and South America. Grown in most tropical countries to provide shade, the trees also have seeds and bark used in traditional medicine to cleanse the digestive tract, while the sap can be used as a pesticide or poison for hunting traps.

Along with sandbox trees, the Health Ministry also lists castor, heartbreak grass and datura among the poisonous plants found in Vietnam.

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