During a news conference to launch National Poison Prevention Week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and the Poison Prevention Week Council warned against unintentional poisonings. On average, there are 28 deaths and more than 1.2 million incidents each year where children under 5 years of age are exposed to possible poisons.
Launched in 2002, the national toll-free poison hotline number 1-800-222-1222 receives more than one million calls each year about potential child poisonings and has helped save numerous children from serious injuries or death.
Parents and caregivers can prevent unintentional poisonings by using child-resistant packaging and keeping medicines and household products locked up and out of children's reach. Often new parents and caregivers, who aren't accustomed to having small children in the home, are unaware of the dangers presented by everyday household products. One example is leaving an open bottle of baby oil within reach of a young child. The consequences could be tragic.
"Child-resistant packaging saves lives," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "In the early 1970s when regulations for packaging went into effect, more than 200 children under age 5 died each year from ingesting toxic household products. This has decreased to about 28 deaths per year."
Enacted in 1970, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) requires child-resistant packaging for about 30 categories of medicines and household chemicals. The packaging required by the PPPA must be designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under 5 years of age to open within a reasonable time, and not difficult for normal adults to use properly. The most recent category for which child-resistant packaging has been required is hydrocarbons, which includes common household products like baby oil.
Rose Ann Soloway, Chair of the Poison Prevention Week Council, said that "Preventing poisoning is a multi-step process, as is the treatment of poisonings which do occur. Product stewardship, government regulations, the immediate availability of poison centers, and expert medical care all play a role. But the most important role is played by adults who spend time with children. There is no substitute for attentive adults who provide safe environments in which children can learn and explore, then supervise those children carefully as they do so."
Child-resistant packaging, poison control centers and the National Poison Prevention Week campaign have saved thousands of lives since the early 1970s. Children are curious, and they act fast. So do poisons.
Douglas Borys, President of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, noted, "You never need to guess or worry about what to do for a possible poisoning. When you call 1-800-222-1222, you will talk to local experts who will guide you through what could be a frightening experience."
Parents and caregivers should follow these basic poison prevention tips to reduce the risk of unintentional poisonings:
1. Keep all household products and medicines locked up, out of sight and out of reach.
2. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use or choose child-resistant unit packaging, which does not need to be re-secured.
3. Call 1-800-222-1222 immediately in case of poisoning.
4. When products are in use, keep children in your sight, even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.
5. Keep items in original containers.
6. Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.
7. Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by young children.
8. Always turn the light on when giving or taking medicine so you can see what you are taking. Check the dosage every time.
9. Avoid taking medicine in front of children.
10. Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of unneeded and outdated medicines.
To get a free packet of poison prevention publications, write to "Poison Prevention Packet," CPSC, Washington, DC 20207, or visit www.poisonprevention.org - and for additional information about poison prevention and poison centers, visit www.aapcc.org