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Plants May Cause Cancer

Crotons and touch-me-nots, two plants popular with Guangzhou residents, had the potential to cause nasal cancer, the New Express reported Monday.


Zeng Yi, a researcher at the Chinese Institute of Epidemic Diseases Prevention and Treatment, has discovered 52 varieties of plants containing cancer-causing substances in a study of 1,693 herbs and plants. He said many ornamentals that people were familiar with had a substance called Epsteln-Barr that could induce cancer antigen virus.


Epsteln-Barr could induce the EB virus to transform lymphocyte, which then grew into a tumor, said Zeng. The plants could even spread toxins in the soil.


However, some botanists remain divided, saying it was possible, but there was no agreement among scientists yet.


Experiments were needed to verify the claims, said Chen Riyuan, director of the gardening school at the South China University of Agriculture. However, plants in general were helpful in purifying air, Chen said.


Some Chinese researchers conducted a two-decade investigation in Cangwu County and Wuzhou City in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where there was a high incidence of nasal cancer.


Investigations discovered that a plant known as oil drum, which was widely planted in the area, was blamed for the increase.


Researchers said the leaves and blossoms of the oil drum combined with the soil after falling to the ground. The combined substance, which could cause cancer, was blown into the air and inhaled by people in dry weather.

(Shenzhen Daily April 6, 2005)

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