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Children Act Fast . . . And So Do Poisons


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises parents and caregivers to keep potentially harmful products locked up and in a high cabinet out of the reach of children. Poison Prevention Month is observed each March to increase awareness of the danger to children of accidental poisoning from pesticides and household products.

U.S. poison control centers receive a call every 15 seconds about an accidental poisoning. The National Safety Council records show that more than 50 percent of the nearly 2.5 million poisoning incidents each year involve children under six years of age. Most are due to children swallowing common household items like prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products. Poisonings also involve house plants, tobacco products and alcohol.

To reduce the number of unintentional poisoning deaths and injuries, EPA recommends that parents keep items in their original containers, leave the original labels on the products, and read labels before use. Bathrooms and kitchens are the areas in the home most likely to have improperly stored hazards. Whenever possible, purchase products with child-resistant safety packaging and keep all household cleaning products and medicines locked up, out of sight and out of reach of young children.

Poisonings can occur when adults are distracted for just a few moments by the telephone, the doorbell or other household events, which is why locking up potential hazards is so important.

To highlight National Poison Prevention Month, EPA has launched a poison-prevention segment on Green Scene, EPA’s new series of environmental videos. During an interview on Green Scene, Assistant Administrator Jim Gulliford, of the Office of Prevention Pesticides and Toxic Substances, discusses how to protect your children from toxic substances around the home and how to respond in case of accidental poisoning.

These simple steps can help you save children from environmental hazards around the home

Always store pesticides, household chemicals/cleaners, medications, vitamins, personal care items, including chlorine bleach, out of the children’s reach – preferably in a locked cabinet.

Read the label first. Pesticide products, household cleaning products, and pet products can be dangerous.

Before applying pesticides or other household chemicals, remove children and their toys, as well as pets, from the area. Keep children and pets away until the pesticide has dried or as long as is recommended on the label.

If your use of pesticide or other household chemicals is interrupted (perhaps by a phone call), properly reclose the container and remove it from children’s reach. Always use household products in child-resistant packaging.

Never transfer pesticides or other household chemicals to containers that a children may associate with food or drink (like soda bottles), and never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.

When applying insect repellents to children, read all directions first. Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin, do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands or directly on the face, and use just enough to cover exposed skin or clothing but do not use under clothing.

Act Fast! If you think someone has been poisoned act fast. Don’t wait to see what happens, call the National Poison Control Center RIGHT AWAY at 1-800-222-1222.

Parents and community organizations can obtain additional prevention materials, including the “Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings” and “Poison Prevention: Read the Label First Community Action Kit” brochures by calling EPA’s Environmental Publications line at 1-800-490-9198.


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