With the presence of death cap mushrooms on the rise, B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is issuing a warning to “play it safe” around the poisonous and urban mushroom.
“We’ve had 30 calls between June and August about mushroom exposures and 16 in September alone,” said Raymond Li, a pharmacist with the B.C. Drug and Poison Control Centre in the BCCDC’s press release.
“Now that the rains are here, people are seeing mushrooms all over the place.”
The death cap mushroom is the single most poisonous mushroom in the world, and can be mistaken for other edible mushrooms like the paddy straw mushroom or puff balls.
Back in July, Island Health issued a warning that the mushrooms were found near the Uplands and Cedar Hill area.
Tragically, in 2016, a toddler on Vancouver Island died after eating a death cap mushroom.
Death cap mushrooms are not native to B.C., and so far they have only been reported in urban areas. The poisonous mushrooms made their way here on the roots of trees that line city streets and parks.
“There was no way of knowing it was there when we brought the trees here,” said Paul Kroeger, founding member of the Vancouver Mycological Society in the BCCDC press release.
“It was not until the trees matured, about 50 years later, that the mushrooms began to appear.”
The BCCDC is asking the public to report sightings or signs of the poisonous mushrooms to the Province’s Invasive Species Working Group report form or local mycological club.
If you do see a death cap, the BCCDC recommends you note the location, take pictures of the mushrooms, and report it.
If you’re feeling particularly heroic, you can also remove the mushrooms yourself and dispose of them in municipal compost bins or your own garbage. Touching the death caps with your hands does not pose a risk, but wearing gloves is recommended.
Symptoms of death cap poisoning
Death caps contain toxins that damage the liver and kidney.
Within 6 to 12 hours, people may experience cramping, abdominal pain, vomiting, watery diarrhea, and dehydration.
After 24 hours, many people may begin to feel better, but the toxins will continue to damage vital organs. A second wave of diarrhea and cramping will occur within 72 hours of eating the mushroom, and will lead to severe illness and organ failure. At that point, medical treatment and organ transplants may be required.
If you are worried you have ingested a death cap, call poison control immediately at 1-800-567-8911.
You can view the BCCDC’s safety brochure on death cap mushrooms here.