Household Poisons? Some Easy Safety Tips for Families
By Adam J. Langino, Esq.
Did you know that March 21 - 27 is National Poison Prevention Week? NPPW was established by federal legislation and has been observed since 1962. As a trial attorney that helps everyday families hurt by dangerous/defective products, I am well-versed in the federal safety packaging standards.
Recently, the U.S. CPSC issued a statement promoting NPP week with some stats and safety tips to help families keep their loved ones safe. Here's what you need to know!
Unintentional poisoning is one of the leading causes of injury among children. Thousands of children in the United States visit emergency rooms each year after consuming poisonous substances. In 2019, approximately 67,500 children under five years old ended up in emergency rooms due to unintended poisoning. To compare, in 1985, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) received more than 60,000 reports of unintentional prescription drug ingestions involving children under the age of five.
About 85 percent of these incidents occurred in the home. Blood pressure medications, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antidepressants, Attention Deficit Disorder medications, dietary supplements, diphenhydramine, bleach, and laundry packets, are often the culprit. Multiple factors contribute to the risk of unintentional ingestion of prescription medications. These include the inability of young children to recognize potential hazards, their tendency to explore the world and to put things in their mouths, and the availability of medicine in the kitchen and bedrooms. Other factors include ineffective child-resistant closures, closures that do not continue to function as designed, and the misuse of these closures. More often than not, the medication is in its initial packaging.
Nearly nine out of 10 unintentional poisonings occur in the home. The U.S. CPSC's preliminary data from March through September 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic found that hospital emergency room (ER) treatment rose sharply for severe injuries related to cleaning agents (84%) and soaps and detergents (60%) compared to the previous year.
Child poisoning deaths have decreased by more than 80% since the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) went into effect in 1970. The PPPA requires manufacturers to secure certain medicines and hazardous household chemicals in child-resistant packaging. Under the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015 (CNPAA), liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes also requires child-resistant packaging. Often sold in sweet flavors and bright colors that appeal to children, liquid nicotine is highly toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin or eyes. Ingestion of just small amounts of liquid nicotine can be highly hazardous and even deadly to children.
From the U.S. CSPC, some tips and resources to help keep your family safe:
Do not store medications for convenience in unsecured containers. This presents a danger to children. Keep medicines closed tightly in their original bottles with child-resistant caps. Keep them stored securely away from children. The elderly also are at risk of mistaking medications.
Unfinished or unused medicines should be discarded properly. Ask your local pharmacy or police department if they have a disposal kiosk for medications.
Never call medicine "candy."
Avoid potential poisonings, always store liquid nicotine in its child-resistant packaging, tightly seal the container after each use, and keep it stored securely away from children.
Household Cleaning Products
Keep household cleaning products, hand sanitizers, and other products sold in child-resistant packaging in their original packaging and stored securely away from children. The elderly also are at risk of ingesting household products.
Single-load liquid laundry packets are highly concentrated, often colorful, and can look appetizing to children. Store laundry products securely away from children, and keep them sealed in their original packaging.
Coin-size button batteries, used in all sorts of electronics--from remotes and gaming controllers to musical greeting cards--are a danger if ingested. Do not leave products with accessible button batteries within reach of children. If the battery compartment does not have a screw closure or is damaged, keep the product out of reach; use a robust and secure tape (e.g., duct tape) to secure a battery compartment.
Fuel-burning products, such as portable generators, furnaces, and cars, produce carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly, colorless, and odorless gas. Always operate portable generators outside and away from open doors, windows and vents. Keep generators at least 20 feet away from the house.
Poison Help Line
Always keep the National Poison Help Line Number, 800-222-1222, handy in case of a poison emergency.
The death rate from poisoning in children under five has steadily declined since the enactment of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) of 1970. With vigilance, education, and corporations following the safety rules, they should continue to decline.
I hope that you find the above helpful in keeping your children safe. If the unthinkable happens and you or a loved one a catastrophically injured due to a household poison, please feel free to reach out. I am licensed to practice law in Florida and North Carolina and co-counsel claims in other states. If you would like to learn more about me or my practice, click here. If you want to request a free consultation, click here. As always, stay safe and stay well.