Greenhouses Can Be Dangerous

Name and Position/Title:
Patrick O’Malley, Commercial Horticulture Field Specialist

Fiscal Year Submitted:

POW Title and Number:
130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer 

Greenhouses Can Be Dangerous

Improperly installed or defective greenhouse heating systems can not only harm plants, but can also harm people.  A greenhouse grower called about plants showing epinastic symptoms. In talking with the grower it was determined that the affected plants were closest to the heater, which was an unvented propane heater.  In further questioning the grower said she and her family often times had headaches while working in the greenhouse.  The headaches coincided with use of the heater.

The grower was aware of Extension and me because of prior horticulture related meetings I have had for her community.   I checked the plants and they had injury consistent with excessive ethylene levels.  I explained the dangers of the unvented heater and strongly suggested she correct the heating system and to get a carbon monoxide detector.

The grower learned an unvented heater can release ethylene which can distort plants, but that it also releases carbon monoxide which at high enough levels can kill humans.  The grower corrected the heating system and also acquired a carbon monoxide detector in case there would be any future problems with the heating system.

Subsequently I had a second greenhouse call with similar plant damage.  In this case it was a new heating system that had been recently installed.  After discussing it with her she had her heating technician recheck the system and he found a leak in the venting.  She also acquired a carbon monoxide detector.


130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer 


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