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Toxic Plant That Can Cause Blindness Found In Pennsylvania

(KDKA/CBS LOCAL) -- A noxious, alien and invasive plant that looks like Queen Anne's lace on steroids – giant hogweed -- is causing some concerns after being found in multiple states, including Pennsylvania.

In addition to Pennsylvania, giant hogweed can be found in New York, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Ted Cruz Tom Ricketts
Left: Ted Cruz (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Right: Tom Ricketts (Credit: Bob Levey Getty Images)

Giant hogweed sap contains toxic chemicals that, when they come in contact with the human skin, can cause painful blisters and permanent scarring. If it gets into an eye, it can even cause blindness.

If you do come into contact with the plant, wash off the sap with cold water immediately and get out of the sun. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact. Apply sunscreen to the affected areas. If hogweed sap gets into the eye, rinse with water immediately and put on sunglasses.

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Hogweed is in the carrot family and can grow 14 feet or taller. The toxic pant has thick leaves stretching five feet wide and large clusters of white flowers on the top in an umbrella pattern. Its stems are green with purple blotches and white hairs.

Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russia - but it made its way to the U.S. by the early 20th century.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture added giant hogweed to the Pennsylvania Noxious Weed Control List in 2000.

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