Chemical Safety: Poison Prevention

According to American Association of Poison Centers, in 2012, poison centers answered more than 3.4 million calls. This translates into one call every 8 seconds. Moreover, children younger than six years old account for about 50% of the calls placed to poison centers. And, while poison center data cites a drop in pesticide-related calls from 146,000 to 145,000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges the public to remain vigilant in their poison prevention efforts.


What steps should we take in poison prevention? First, take a good look at your own products in your household that contain chemicals and keep them out of reach of children and pets in a locked cabinet or in a garden shed (depending on the product). This includes products such as: bath and kitchen disinfectants and sanitizers, including bleach; household cleaning or maintenance products, such as drain cleaner, paints, or glues; automotive products stored around the home, such as anti-freeze or windshield washer fluid; health or beauty care products such as medicines, hair and nail products; roach sprays and baits; insect repellents; rat and other rodent poisons; weed killers; products used to kill mold or mildew; flea and tick shampoos, powders, and dips for pets; and swimming pool chemicals.


The EPA also recommends that individuals read all product labels carefully before taking anything and to be vigilant about following directions. Also, seal products after each use so that children can’t get access to them (especially if they are not locked away). Before applying pesticides in or out of the home, make sure kids and their toys and pets are removed; take note of the label directions to know when it’s safe for children and pets to reenter the treated area. When using cleaning products, try to use the safest possible. There are many new products on the market that are chemical-free.


Other measures you can take include making sure your home is tested for lead. Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds in the body over a period of months or years. Even the smallest amount can lead to serious health products, particularly in children who are vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development, and at very high levels, it can be fatal.


Also, have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home. You read horror stories about families dying because there were no detectors in the home and they passed away as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. A Nevada family and their pets, for example, were found dead as result of a gas generator in their garage. In Pennsylvania, three children and two adults were found dead from carbon monoxide due to a propane heater that was not properly ventilated inside the cabin where they were vacationing. All the victims had toxic levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. With a carbon monoxide detector they would have been alerted to the leak.


If you think someone has been poisoned, immediately call Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222, to reach your local poison center. This national toll-free number works anywhere in the U.S. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


photo credit: judith511 cc