According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, a poison exposure incident occurs every 14 seconds in the United States, with 2 million total poison exposures reported to poison control call centers in 2000. Most poisoning accidents are unintentional, and 89 percent of all poison exposures occur in the home.
Poisons can enter the body through the eyes, ears, skin, mouth, or air passageways, and many things can become poisons if they are used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount.
Poisons and Children
Poisonous substances can be found in every room of the house, and children are at a particularly high risk of poison exposure if they are unable to read warning labels on dangerous household products or medications. Children frequently put items and substances into their mouths to explore, which can put them at risk for ingestion of toxic substances that are mistaken for juice, candy, or toys.
Accidents often occur when an adult uses a potentially poisonous medication or substance in the presence of a child. Distractions such as a visitor at the door or a phone call should never be the reason a child is left alone with a poisonous substance, even for a few minutes.
Household Poison Dangers
Each room of the house may have substances or products with the potential to cause health problems if ingested, touched, or inhaled. Mixing some household cleaners such as ammonia and bleach can create dangerous vapors that cause harm if inhaled.
The following items found in various rooms of the home are poisonous if used incorrectly by adults or if ingested by children:
- Bathroom: Toilet bowl cleaner, baby oil, artificial nail remover, topical pain relievers, over-the-counter pain medications, vitamins, iron pills, mouthwash, aftershave, perfume, acne treatments, diaper rash products, calamine lotion, sunburn creams
- Kitchen: Drain cleaners, dishwasher and dish detergents, rust removers, oven cleaners, antimicrobials, alcohol
- Garage/Outdoor: Antifreeze, windshield washer solution, insecticides, gasoline, paint, paint thinner, rat and mouse poison, wild mushrooms, carbon monoxide (CO) from burning fuels, certain plants
- Bedroom: Mothballs, lamp oil, furniture polish
- Other: Miniature batteries, aerosol products that can be huffed, silica gel packets
Poison Safety Tips
There are many steps you can take to help prevent accidental poisonings in the home, including the following tips:
- Choose child-resistant packaging and close caps tightly
- Don't take medicine in front of children, and never call medicine "candy"
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm
- Keep children in sight when potentially dangerous household products or medications are being used
- Store substances in original containers
- Put potentially dangerous substances and medicines locked in a cabinet and out of sight and reach of children
- Know the national poison control number (1-800-222-1222)
- Never sniff a container to guess the content
- Read medication packaging carefully and check the dosage each time
- Keep purses and briefcases out of the reach of children