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March 16, 2001

Poisonings Kill About 30 Annually, Cause 1 Million Calls to Poison Centers

National Poison Prevention Week
Source: CPSC

Washington, DC  (SafetyAlerts) - Each year, unintentional poisonings from medicines and household chemicals kill about 30 children and prompt more than 1 million calls to the nation's poison control centers. The 40th observance of National Poison Prevention Week, which is March 18-24, aims to help prevent those childhood poisonings by reminding people to check their homes now.

The three most important safety messages to prevent poisonings are: (1) Use child-resistant packaging because it saves lives; (2) Keep medicines and household chemicals locked up out of reach and out of sight of young children because some children can open child-resistant packaging; and (3) Keep the poison control center number next to your telephone and call immediately if a poisoning occurs.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires child- resistant packaging for 28 categories of medicines and household chemicals and is considering such packaging for a group of chemicals known as hydrocarbons. "Child resistant-packaging saves lives," said CPSC Executive Director Pamela Gilbert. "For aspirin and oral prescription medicine, special packaging has saved the lives of over 900 children since the early 1970s."

National Poison Prevention Week is organized each year by the Poison Prevention Week Council, a coalition of national organizations working to prevent poisonings. According to William W. Bradley, Chairman of the Poison Prevention Week Council, "For 40 years, National Poison Prevention Week has emphasized the responsibility of parents, grandparents, and other caregivers in preventing poisonings. Children are curious, and they act fast. So do poisons. Keep chemicals and medicines locked up out of reach and out of sight. Poisonings can, and must, be prevented."

Child-resistant packaging is not child-proof. If a young child swallows a medicine or chemical, parents must call the poison control center immediately. Dr. Alan Woolf, President of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said, "By treating poisoning in the home instead of the emergency room, poison centers save the United States $350 million annually."

The "Poison Control Center Enhancement and Awareness Act" will provide a stable source of federal funds for poison centers and make them more accessible to the entire nation. The new funding will support poison center programs throughout the United States.

At a news conference today, 3-year-old Stevie Carrico and his parents, Debbie and Steve Carrico, told the story of his poisoning. Stevie swallowed some cough and cold medicine. His parents called the poison center which recommended that they give him ipecac syrup to make him vomit. He is fine today.

Here are the basic poison prevention tips that every person should check during National Poison Prevention Week:

  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use.
  • Keep all chemicals and medicines locked up and out of sight.
  • Call the poison center immediately in case of poisoning. Keep on hand a bottle of ipecac syrup but use it only if the poison center instructs you to induce vomiting.
  • When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.
  • Keep items in original containers.
  • Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.
  • 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.
  • Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every 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.

To get a free packet of poison prevention publications, write to "Poison Prevention Packet," CPSC, Washington, DC 20207.

Consumers can also view a video clip from the CPSC about National Poison Prevention Week. This is in "streaming video" format.

Selected Recent Recalls

Health Professional:

Did you know?
During 2000 there were over
1050 products recalled in the United
States for safety reasons!

How many did you hear about?

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