Even though the number of deaths from unintentional poisonings has dropped sharply in the last 50 years, they’re still way too high – in fact, one fatality is way too high.
Last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) celebrated the 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week, which is in fact the nation’s longest running public health campaign. When the campaign first launched, over 400 kids were killed by unintentional poisoning. Today, that number is under 40.
Believe it or not, aspirin was the most common culprit back in the early 1960s.
The number of fatalities is relatively low these days – but despite the best efforts of parents and agencies like the CPSC, over 90,000 kids are treated in emergency rooms for unintentional poisonings each year.
And while the CPSC’s poison prevention efforts focus on kids, we can’t forget about those furry friends many of us have in our families.
For example, antifreeze used to be a danger to both kids and pets. One of the main ingredients, ethylene glycol, gave off a sweet smell that would attract a small child or dog. If they ingested the anti-freeze, the consequences would prove fatal. Fortunately today, many brands of antifreeze have changed their formulas. Rather than ethylene glycol, they use propylene glycol, which is much safer.
While many poison hazards have been addressed through higher standards (child-proof caps) or educational efforts, many dangers still exist.
Coin-size batteries are one such danger, as well as single-load liquid laundry packets. There are many others we can consider if we think about it.
The big message though is any injuries or deaths resulting from unintentional poisoning are completely preventable. The CPSC recommends the following steps to keeping your child and pets safe from common household poisons.
- Keep medicines and household chemicals in their original, child-resistant containers.
- Store potentially hazardous substances up and out of a child’s sight and reach.
- Keep the national Poison Help Line number, 800-222-1222, handy in case of emergency.
- When hazardous products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if it means you must take them along when answering the phone or door bell.
- Leave the original labels on products, and read the labels before using the products.
- Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine so you can see that you are administering the proper medicine. And be sure to check the dosage each time.
- Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as “medicine,” not “candy.”
- Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of unneeded and outdated medicines.
- Do not put decorative lamps or candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by children.
Again, injury and death from unintentional poisoning is completely preventable. Taking necessary, common-sense precautions can go a long way toward ensuring your children and pets are safe. Many modern conveniences, while wonderful, do pose dangers too. However, you can protect you and your family by following all recommendations from the manufacturer on both use and storage.