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John Beatty
Maine Fire Training and Education
Southern Maine Community College


Most child poisonings result from common household products.  Every seven minutes, a child arrives at an emergency room due to a suspected poisoning.

 The Consumer Product Safety Commission tells us the in 2003 there were about 78,000 children under the age of five visited hospital emergency rooms due to unintentional poisonings.  More than nine in ten are suspected poison exposures that occur in the home.  The cause is readily available household products.  About thirty children will die from poisoning this year.  This figure is down considerably since the 1960, where the prediction was approximately 450 children would die. 

Parents can do their part.  They can keep harmful products and all medications out of the reach of children.  Storing those products in their original containers and properly using child resistant packaging.

 So of the most potentially toxic household products that involved calls to the Poison Control Centers were:

·         personal care products, including baby oil and mouthwash containing ethanol

·         cleaning substances including drain cleaners and oven cleaners

·         over the counter pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Aspirin, as well as common cough and cold remedies

·         medicines that are repackaged and don't contain a child resistant container, especially adult strength vitamins and supplements that contain iron

·         lamp oil and furniture polish which are hydrocarbons

 Two groups that can help with child safety are grandparents and senior adults.

Those who care for their grandchildren should keep their prescription drugs in non-child-resistant pillboxes.  Seniors who use weekly pill distribution containers can also be diligent and keep this out of reach.  Children mimic those they love and want to emulate them.


Many poisoning occur while the products are in use and the parent or caregiver steps away or is distracted for a moment.  Children can get hold of a product and swallow it in the time it takes to answer a phone call or the doorbell.

 My personal experience in having the Poison Control number (1-800-222-1222)

close to the phone centers around my daughter.   As a young child, she had insatiable appetite for eating hand soap. We were able to control her ability to obtain this item by keeping it safely out of her reach.  Nothing is more frightening then the first time you realize that your child has something in their mouths and you are not sure what the consequences are going to be.


As a parent who has been frightened by such an incident, I will like to at least try to prevent another parent from going thru such an ordeal.