Safety Report: Parents Aren't Doing Enough to Stop Poisonings

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March is Poison Prevention Month, according to the Home Safety Council, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.

The HSC's goal is to reduce and eliminate the estimated 20,000 avoidable deaths and 21 million medical visits that result each year in U.S. homes. According to the council, accidental poisoning is the No. 2 cause of home injury and death in our nation.

A recent HSC national survey found that just 1% of U.S. adults rank poisoning at the top of their list of home safety concerns. As result of the findings in the Safe Haven research, the Home Safety Council has increased its efforts to educate all Americans about the sources of home poisoning, especially for children.

The survey shows that 82 percent of U.S. adults have not installed safety locks on cabinets. The same number said they have failed to post the poison control hot line number (800-222-1222) on or near all telephones.

According to the poll, 44 percent of U.S. adults use alternative heat sources including space heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves in their homes. Used incorrectly, these heat sources can pose risks of carbon-monoxide poisoning, burns and home fires.

HSC research also found that even though carbon monoxide is the No. 1 cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S., only 39 percent of adults have installed carbon-monoxide detectors near bedrooms and sleeping areas.

"Perhaps the most important finding from the Safe Haven research is that parents and other caregivers aren't doing nearly enough to protect themselves and their families from serious home poison dangers," said Dr. Angela Mickalide, director of Education and Outreach for the HSC. "Poison Prevention Month is a helpful reminder for all of us to take action against this major health problem."

Statistically speaking, all age groups are susceptible to accidental poisoning. But because of their natural curiosity and tendency to put anything in their mouths, tykes under the age of 5 have the highest rate of nonfatal poison exposures in any age group.

Here is a list of things the council recommends for all U.S. households to reduce the risk of accidental poisonings:
  • Read product labels and lock away those with the words "caution," "warning" or "danger" on the label.

  • Properly use and maintain fueled appliances.

  • Install a carbon-monoxide alarm near sleeping areas.

  • Put child safety locks on cabinets to safely store chemicals, cleaners, medicines, cosmetics and other toxic and/or caustic products.
  • Post the Poison Control Help number (800-222-1222) and other emergency numbers next to every telephone and store them in cell phones.
  • When using harsh products, follow safety recommendations on the label, such as wearing gloves and masks.

  • Do not mix cleaning products together, because when combined their contents could react, with dangerous results.

  • Store all dangerous products away from food and drinks.

  • Be especially aware of products with fruit shown on the labels. They can be confused as being edible.

  • Call 911 if someone fails to wake up, is having trouble breathing or is having seizures.
  • Make sure that medications, including vitamins, prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs, have child-resistant caps.

  • Keep each family member's medicines in a separate place to prevent mix-ups.

  • Carefully measure doses and track medicine given and received.

  • Discard outdated prescriptions properly and keep them locked out of reach of curious teenagers and young adults.

  • Keep medicines and cleaning products in their original containers with the original labels intact.
  • Chemicals, fuels (such as gasoline), car fluids (such as antifreeze), pesticides and lawn and garden products such as fertilizer are poison.

  • Keep products in their original containers. Close the lid and put all dangerous products away after use.

  • Store dangerous products in locked cabinets where children cannot reach them.

  • Clean up spills as soon as they happen.

  • Never run a motor or vehicle engine inside an attached garage, even with the garage door open, as deadly carbon monoxide can enter the home.
For more information about preventing poisoning in the home, and other home-safety issues, visit the Home Safety Council Web site at

E-mail Ven Griva at or write to P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.
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