Health Department

National Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week

by Larry D. Jones, MPH

March 19, 2012

Every year more than two million people are exposed to accidental poisonings. Almost anything can be poisonous if used the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person, but help is available. Through the toll-free Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222, callers can connect to their local poison center.

March 18 through March 24 is National Poison Prevention Week. The week is an opportunity to highlight the dangers of poisonings for people of all ages and to promote community involvement in poisoning prevention on a local and national level. Here are some tips that we all can do to keep our families safe from poisons.

Keep potential poisons locked up and out of children's sight and reach. Educate your children, yourself, grandparents and caregivers about possible poisons in the home.

Don’t forget to post the nationwide poison hotline number (1-800-222-1222) near your telephone to access the Missouri Poison Center or the poison center nearest your home if needed.

Here are some ways you can make your home more safe for everyone in the family, especially children.

Buy products in child-resistant packaging whenever possible. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that child-resistant packaging for aspirin and oral prescription medication has saved the lives of about 900 children since packaging requirements were introduced in the 1970s. But remember, this packaging is child-resistant, not childproof, and is designed to keep children away from the product only for a short time before a parent intervenes.

Never leave potentially poisonous household products unattended while in use. Many exposures occur when an adult takes a moment to answer the telephone or doorbell and a child grabs the bottle.

Remember that there is no such thing as a safe zone when it comes to poisoning. National statistics indicate that 41 percent of poisoning accidents occur in the kitchen, followed by 26 percent in the garage or basement, 21 percent in the bathroom and 12 percent in the bedroom. Interestingly, many poisonings occur during a family's move to a new home, when potentially hazardous items are on the floor or easy to reach.

Avoid taking medicine in front of children, as they tend to copy the actions of adults. Also, never refer to medicine as candy, and always follow exact dosage directions in giving children medications.

Store pesticides in a locked cabinet or garden shed. A recent survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that almost half (47 percent) of all households with children under the age of 5 had at least one pesticide stored in an unlocked cabinet and less than four feet off the ground.

Know the botanical names of all plants inside and outside your home. Some plants and flowers can be toxic if eaten or touched. If you don't know the name of a plant, have it identified at the nearest gardening center in your area.

Have your home tested for lead-based paint if it was built before 1971. Children can become lead-poisoned from ingesting chips or breathing dust from old, heavily-leaded paint on walls and other surfaces.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector in the area near the bedrooms.

For more information on household safety, come to Safety Fest from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at the Independence Events Center, 19100 E. Valley View Parkway. It will be full of fun, interactive learning activities for the entire family.

*information provided by