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Poison Prevention Week: Children can surprise you


Every 13 seconds, U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call about someone being exposed to a poison. Forty percent of those cases involve a child under three years of age, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Children Act Fast...So Do Poisons” is the message the EPA is sending today in conjunction with the Poison Prevention Week Council to keep poisonous substances out of the hands of children. Some of the leading household poisons for children may surprise you.

This article focuses on children. Another 2-part Chicago Environmental Health Examiner article series focused on pets (Part I and Part II). Many of the poison concerns overlap for children and pets, so you may want to read all three articles for a more full understanding of how to prevent poisonings for all.

In 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that more than half of the 2 million poisoning incidents each year involve children younger than six years old, according to a press release issued today by the EPA.

Leading causes of poisoning in children include:

  • cosmetics such as perfume and nail polish;
  • deodorant and soap;
  • household cleaning products;
  • medications;
  • insecticides (insect and rodent killers);
  • pesticides and lawn treatment chemicals;
  • car care products such as antifreeze.

National Poison Prevention Week is March 14-20. The EPA recommends several actions that you can take to prevent poisoning in your home. “Proper and safe storage, use, and supervision of all household products can substantially reduce exposures in the home,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

The EPA provides more information on poison prevention. This suggestion list makes good use of the words "always" and "never." Remember, "Children act fast...and so do poisons." Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Always store household products in a locked cabinet or garden shed away from both your children's and pet's reach.
  • Read the product label first and follow the directions to the letter.
  • Use the safest possible cleaning products. Look for the Design for the Environment (DfE) label on products.
  • Never leave products unattended when you are using them.
  • Re-close products if interrupted during application (e.g., phone call, doorbell, etc.).
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use.
  • Never transfer pesticides to other containers; children may associate certain containers with food or drink.
  • Remove children, pets, and toys before applying pesticides (inside or outside the home). Follow label directions to determine when children and pets can re-enter the area that has been treated.
  • Never use illegal pesticides (e.g., Tres Pasitos, unregistered Insecticidal Chalk, or Tempo). These products have not been reviewed by EPA and their use may pose a danger to public health. Always look for an EPA Registration ID number on the label. (Example: EPA Reg. No. 500-123456).

You can also check out "Poison Proof Your Home One Room at a Time."

For more info: According to the EPA, anyone who is concerned about possible exposure to poison should call 911 if life-threatening. If symptoms are not life-threatening, call the National Poison Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. In addition, U.S. EPA urges you to report all exposures to the product manufacturer (tell them the registration number found on the product label of all pesticide products registered by EPA).

Suggestions, comments, questions? Anything about environmental health that you would like to know about? Email your Chicago Environmental Health Examiner at Follow me on Twitter @chicagoenviron.


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