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Poisons Need Not Threaten In Homes
By Bonnie Coblentz
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The most common victims of poisonings are the tiniest members of society, the ones most trusting of their often dangerous environments.
Children ages 1 to 3 face the highest risk of being poisoned. Much of this is due to their inquisitive nature and inclination to put things in their mouths. But adults are to blame in some cases for carelessly or unknowingly leaving poisonous items within their reach.
March 16 through 22 is National Poison Prevention Week. The theme "Children act fast ... So do poisons!" is an attempt to reduce the risks children face from poisons.
"Children face a very real risk of poison exposure in homes," said Ruth Morgan, pesticide coordinator and pesticide impact assessment specialist at Mississippi State University. "Poisonings can come from known dangerous chemicals as well as common household substances."
The amount of exposure to a toxin needed to poison varies by the substance and by the individual.
"Just a taste of some chemicals is toxic while others require much more to poison," Morgan said.
Typical houses are full of dangerous items, and not all are marked as poisons. Most medicines can be deadly, especially if taken in excessive amounts. Other household poisons are insect sprays, bleach, cleaners, antifreeze, gasoline and lamp oil.
In 1996, Mississippi's Poison Control Center handled 14,722 cases of human exposure to toxins. Of these, 70 percent were of children less than 5 years old. Half of these were poisoned by household products and medications.
The good news is that things are being done to protect against accidental poisonings. Children's deaths due to poisonings have decreased in recent years. Nationwide, 1972 saw 262 children die of medicines and household chemicals. That number dropped to 52 by 1993.
Some measures can reduce the risk of accidental poisonings.
* Buy products with child-resistant caps and close tightly after use.
* Keep medicines and cleaners out of sight in cabinets with child-resistant latches.
* Never put poison in empty food bottles.
* Throw away old medicines. It may have lost its beneficial effects, but can still be poisonous.
* Always read the label directions before taking medication.
* Never call medicine candy.
* When buying medicine, always check the outer packaging for tampering and inspect the inner seal before taking any.
Additionally, always keep food, medicine and household products separate. When a dangerous or potentially dangerous product has been used, immediately close it and put it away.
Parents of young children often face another challenge when they go visiting. Children explore, and a home without young children may be dangerous for visiting youngsters.
Even adults can become victims of poisonings. If medicine is taken in the dark, the wrong bottle can be used. Adults also can be fooled by a toxic substance in an improperly marked bottle.
If a poisoning occurs, take immediate action.
"Call the nearest poison control center and have the container handy so you can read the active ingredient off the label," Morgan said. "Also, take the container with you if you go to the doctor."
Experts recommend keeping one 1-ounce bottle of syrup of ipecac per child in each home. This should be handy, but should only be used if told to by an expert.
The regional poison control center in Mississippi can be reached at (601) 354-7660 or the Memphis office at (901) 528-6048. In most communities, dialing "911" also provides quick access to emergency assistance.
Release: March 3, 1997
Contact: Ruth Morgan,(601)325-2308