Do ZZ Plants Cause Cancer

Do ZZ Plants Cause Cancer? Unraveling the Truth about ZZ Plant Safety

Find out the truth about ZZ plants and cancer. This comprehensive article explores the safety of ZZ plants, backed by expert insights and credible sources. Uncover the reality behind the potential risks and benefits of having a ZZ plant in your home.


ZZ plants, scientifically known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia, have gained popularity as indoor houseplants due to their low maintenance and attractive appearance. However, along with the growing interest in these plants, concerns have arisen about their safety. One such concern revolves around the question, “Do ZZ plants cause cancer?” In this article, we will delve into this topic with a focus on providing accurate and relevant information to help you make an informed decision about having a ZZ plant in your living space.

Do ZZ Plants Cause Cancer? The Root of the Concern

Before we address the question, let’s understand the basis of this concern. ZZ plants belong to the Araceae family, which includes some plants that are toxic or irritants to humans and animals. This association has led some individuals to question whether ZZ plants also pose health risks, particularly when it comes to cancer.

ZZ Plants

The Science Behind ZZ Plants

Unraveling ZZ Plant Characteristics

The ZZ plant, scientifically known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia, has gained immense popularity among plant enthusiasts due to its striking appearance and ease of care. Originating from the dry regions of Eastern Africa, this tropical gem has become a favorite indoor plant worldwide. Let’s delve into the captivating characteristics that make the ZZ plant a beloved addition to any plant lover’s collection.

  • Resilience and Low Maintenance: One of the most alluring features of the ZZ plant is its exceptional resilience. This hardy plant thrives in a variety of conditions and can tolerate neglect, making it an excellent choice for beginners or busy individuals. Its thick, waxy leaves serve as water reservoirs, enabling the plant to endure prolonged periods of drought without wilting.
  • Glossy and Dark Green Foliage: The ZZ plant boasts glossy, dark green leaves that are leathery in texture, adding an elegant touch to any space. The foliage is made up of numerous leaflets arranged along the stem, creating a lush and compact appearance. Its attractive, shiny leaves also aid in reflecting light, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
  • Air Purifying Abilities: Beyond its ornamental charm, the ZZ plant is renowned for its air-purifying qualities. It effectively filters harmful toxins, such as xylene and toluene, from the air, thus promoting a healthier indoor environment. This natural air purifier is an excellent choice for homes and offices, especially in urban areas with limited access to fresh air.
  • Slow Growth and Compact Size: The ZZ plant is a slow grower, which makes it suitable for small living spaces or areas with limited room for larger plants. Its compact size allows it to fit effortlessly on shelves, tabletops, or as a desk companion, adding a touch of greenery to any nook or cranny.
  • Adaptability to Low Light Conditions: Thriving in low light conditions is one of the ZZ plant’s most remarkable traits. While it prefers bright, indirect light, it can endure environments with minimal natural light, making it an ideal choice for offices, apartments, or rooms with few windows. However, it should be shielded from direct sunlight, as intense rays can scorch its leaves.
  • Propagation Simplicity: Propagating the ZZ plant is relatively easy, as it can be done through root division. By carefully separating healthy rhizomes from the main plant, new ZZ plants can be grown, providing a cost-effective way to expand your collection or share the joy of this unique plant with others.
  • Pet-Friendly: Unlike some houseplants that can be toxic to pets, the ZZ plant is non-toxic and safe for cats, dogs, and other household animals. This characteristic ensures that pet owners can enjoy the beauty of the ZZ plant without worrying about their furry friends’ well-being.

ZZ Plant Toxin: Calcium Oxalate Crystals

ZZ Plants

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) possesses an interesting characteristic that sets it apart from many other houseplants – it contains calcium oxalate crystals. These microscopic crystals, found in various parts of the plant, serve as a natural defense mechanism against herbivores and pests. However, they can pose a potential risk to humans and pets if ingested or come into contact with sensitive skin.

  • Toxicity to Humans: The calcium oxalate crystals in the ZZ plant can cause mild to moderate irritation if ingested. When chewed or bitten, these crystals release oxalic acid, which can lead to symptoms such as oral irritation, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, and difficulty swallowing. Ingesting larger quantities of the plant may result in more severe symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Toxicity to Pets: Like with humans, the ZZ plant can be toxic to pets if ingested. Dogs and cats may experience similar symptoms of oral irritation, drooling, and difficulty swallowing if they chew on the plant. It is essential to keep the ZZ plant out of reach of curious pets to prevent accidental ingestion.
  • Contact Dermatitis: Apart from ingestion, handling the ZZ plant can also lead to skin irritation for some individuals. The calcium oxalate crystals can cause contact dermatitis, resulting in redness, itching, and rash on the skin. It is advisable to wear gloves while handling the plant, especially for those with sensitive skin.
  • Precautions: To enjoy the ZZ plant’s beauty while minimizing potential risks, it is crucial to handle it with care. Here are some precautions to consider:
    • Keep the ZZ plant out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.
    • If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when handling the plant to avoid contact dermatitis.
    • Wash hands thoroughly after touching the ZZ plant to remove any residual sap or crystals.
    • If ingested or if symptoms of irritation occur, seek medical attention immediately.

Despite its calcium oxalate crystals, the ZZ plant remains a popular choice for indoor plant enthusiasts due to its other captivating characteristics and low-maintenance nature. By practicing caution and ensuring proper handling, you can enjoy the beauty of the ZZ plant in your home without worry. As with any houseplant, it’s essential to be informed about its specific characteristics to ensure the well-being of both your family and your beloved pets.

The Cancer Connection: Myth or Reality?

Exploring the Link between ZZ Plants and Cancer

As of my last update in September 2021, there is no credible scientific evidence to suggest a direct link between ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) and cancer. ZZ plants are commonly cultivated as houseplants for their attractive appearance, air-purifying abilities, and low maintenance requirements. However, they do contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause irritation when ingested or handled improperly, as mentioned in the previous response.

The concern about ZZ plants and cancer likely stems from a misconception related to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. Oxalates are naturally occurring substances found in many plant-based foods and ornamental plants, including ZZ plants. In high amounts, oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption in the body and potentially contribute to kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals. However, there is no credible scientific evidence to support the claim that ZZ plants or their oxalates are linked to cancer development.

It is essential to rely on reputable sources and scientific studies when seeking information about potential health risks associated with plants or other substances. If you have concerns about the safety of specific houseplants or their impact on health, it is best to consult with a medical professional or a certified botanist for accurate and up-to-date information.

As with any houseplant, practicing proper care and handling of ZZ plants, including washing hands after touching them and keeping them out of reach of children and pets, will help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience with these beautiful indoor plants.

ZZ Plant Toxicity Levels

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is known for its low maintenance and air-purifying qualities, but it is also important to be aware of its potential toxicity. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can be harmful if ingested or come into contact with the skin. The toxicity levels of the ZZ plant can vary depending on the amount ingested and the individual’s sensitivity. Here’s a breakdown of the toxicity levels:

  • Mild Toxicity: Ingesting or chewing on small amounts of the ZZ plant may cause mild symptoms of irritation in both humans and pets. These symptoms can include oral discomfort, slight swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat, and mild digestive upset, such as nausea or vomiting.
  • Moderate Toxicity: Ingesting larger quantities of the ZZ plant can lead to more pronounced symptoms. Individuals may experience more significant oral and throat irritation, increased swelling, and potentially more severe gastrointestinal disturbances like persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Severe Toxicity: While severe toxicity cases from ZZ plant ingestion are rare, consuming significant amounts could result in more severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing due to throat swelling. It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if someone ingests a large quantity of the plant or experiences severe symptoms.
  • Contact Dermatitis: ZZ plant toxicity is not limited to ingestion. Handling the plant can also cause skin irritation in some individuals, resulting in contact dermatitis. Symptoms may include redness, itching, and a rash on the skin.
  • Toxicity to Pets: ZZ plants can be toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets if ingested. As with humans, ingestion can cause mild to moderate symptoms of irritation, oral discomfort, and gastrointestinal upset in pets. It is best to keep ZZ plants out of reach of pets to prevent accidental ingestion.

To minimize the risks associated with ZZ plant toxicity:

  • Keep ZZ plants out of reach of children and pets.
  • If handling the plant, wear gloves to protect your skin from contact with the calcium oxalate crystals.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the ZZ plant to remove any residue.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if ingested or if severe symptoms occur.

While ZZ plants are generally safe when handled properly, it’s essential to be aware of their potential toxicity and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience with these beautiful houseplants. If you have any concerns about the safety of the ZZ plant or any other plants, consult with a medical professional or a certified botanist for expert advice.

The Benefits of ZZ Plants

ZZ plants, scientifically known as Zamioculcas zamiifolia, have become a popular choice for indoor houseplants due to their unique characteristics and a plethora of benefits they offer. In this section, we will explore the various advantages of having a ZZ plant in your living space, making it a wonderful addition to any home or office setting.

  • Air Purification: A Breath of Fresh Air

One of the most significant benefits of ZZ plants is their air-purifying capabilities. They are excellent at removing harmful toxins and pollutants from the air, promoting a healthier indoor environment. Research has shown that ZZ plants can effectively absorb pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene, which are commonly found in indoor spaces due to the use of household products and building materials.

  • Low Maintenance: A Dream for Busy Plant Enthusiasts

For those who have a busy lifestyle or lack green thumbs, ZZ plants are a dream come true. These hardy plants require minimal care and attention. They can thrive in low-light conditions and can withstand periods of neglect without losing their charm. With occasional watering and a well-draining potting mix, ZZ plants can continue to flourish and bring beauty to your space.

  • Drought Tolerance: Surviving Dry Spells

ZZ plants have evolved to survive harsh conditions in their native habitat, making them incredibly drought-tolerant. Their thick, succulent-like leaves store water, allowing them to endure extended periods without watering. This feature makes ZZ plants an ideal choice for individuals who tend to forget about their plant’s water needs or live in regions with arid climates.

  • Versatile Placement: Beauty Anywhere

Due to their low-light adaptability, ZZ plants can be placed in various locations within your home or office. Whether it’s a dimly lit corner, a room with limited natural light, or an office cubicle, ZZ plants can thrive and maintain their attractive appearance. Their glossy, dark green foliage adds a touch of elegance to any setting.

  • Reducing Stress and Enhancing Well-being

Indoor plants, including ZZ plants, have been proven to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. The presence of greenery indoors has a calming effect, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. ZZ plants can contribute to a more tranquil and pleasant environment, making your living or working space a more enjoyable place to be.

  • Easy Propagation: Sharing the Love

If you want to expand your ZZ plant collection or share the joy of growing ZZ plants with friends and family, propagation is a breeze. ZZ plants can be propagated through stem cuttings, making it simple for even novice plant enthusiasts to create new plants from mature ones.

  • Purifying Humidity: A Natural Moisture Regulator

Apart from air purification, ZZ plants are also efficient in regulating indoor humidity levels. They naturally release moisture through their leaves, helping to maintain an optimal humidity range in your living space. This feature can be particularly beneficial in dry climates or during the winter months when indoor air tends to be drier.

  • Enhancing Aesthetics: A Gorgeous Foliage Display

The striking appearance of ZZ plants makes them a favored choice for interior decorators and plant enthusiasts alike. Their glossy, dark green leaves create an eye-catching display that adds a touch of sophistication and beauty to any room. Whether used as a standalone plant or in combination with other houseplants, ZZ plants are sure to elevate the aesthetics of your living space.

ZZ plants offer an array of benefits that make them an excellent choice for indoor greenery. From their air-purifying abilities and low maintenance requirements to their aesthetic appeal and stress-reducing qualities, ZZ plants bring numerous advantages to any environment they grace. So, if you’re looking for a beautiful, resilient, and health-promoting houseplant, consider adding a ZZ plant to your collection and enjoy the wonders it brings to your home or office.

FAQs About ZZ Plants and Cancer

  • Can ZZ plants cause severe health issues like cancer? While ZZ plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, they have low toxicity levels and are unlikely to cause severe health issues like cancer.
  • Are ZZ plants safe to keep at home, especially around pets and children? Yes, ZZ plants are safe to keep at home. However, like any other houseplant, it is essential to keep them out of reach of pets and children to prevent accidental ingestion or irritation.
  • Do ZZ plants release harmful chemicals into the air? No, ZZ plants do not release harmful chemicals into the air. Instead, they help purify the air by removing toxins.
  • What should I do if I suspect ZZ plant poisoning? If you suspect ZZ plant poisoning, seek immediate medical attention. While severe reactions are rare, it is best to be cautious.
  • Can ZZ plants cause skin irritation? Yes, ZZ plants can cause mild skin irritation due to their calcium oxalate crystals. Avoid contact with the sap and consider wearing gloves when handling the plant.
  • Are there any alternatives to ZZ plants that are safer for pets and children? Yes, several houseplants are considered pet and child-friendly. Some examples include Spider Plants, Boston Ferns, and Areca Palms.


In conclusion, ZZ plants are generally safe to keep indoors, and there is no evidence to suggest a direct link between ZZ plants and cancer in humans. While they contain calcium oxalate crystals, their toxicity levels are low, making severe health issues unlikely. ZZ plants offer numerous benefits, such as air purification and stress reduction, making them a valuable addition to your home décor.

So, if you’ve been wondering, “Do ZZ plants cause cancer?” rest assured that they do not pose a significant risk. With proper care and placement, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of ZZ plants without worry.

Remember, always prioritize safety and be cautious when handling any houseplant. If you have specific health concerns or allergies, consult with a healthcare professional before introducing any new plants into your living space.

Note: The benefits mentioned in this article are based on general observations and research related to houseplants. Individual experiences with ZZ plants may vary. Always consider factors such as allergies and pet safety when selecting houseplants.