Personal Injury

U.S., Canada, Mexico join efforts in poison prevention week

To young children, grandma’s heart medicine looks like an enticing piece of candy, and a bottle of brightly colored, citrus-scented floor cleaner promises to be a fun, fruity drink. The typical household is full of such deceptive poisons for children who can’t yet read, as evidenced by more than one million emergency phone calls involving poisoned children made to U.S. poison control centers every year.

This week (March 18-24) marks the 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week. To help call attention to the everyday dangers of household poisoning, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has teamed with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts to spread the word, engage consumers, and offer helpful advice that can help lower the number of children unintentionally poisoned throughout North America.

Collaborative efforts between the CPSC, Health Canada, and Mexico’s National Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco) and its Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) have resulted in a variety of media that teaches consumers how to safely choose, store, use, and dispose of products that could be seriously harmful to children.

“Fifty years of poison awareness efforts have resulted in thousands of lives saved,” CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum said in a statement. “However, new and reemerging hazards, such as button cell batteries and chemicals that look like everyday drinks, have renewed CPSC’s efforts to raise awareness and encourage poison prevention.”

According to the CPSC, accidental poisoning is one of the leading causes of injury to children, yet it is also one of the most preventable. Every year, thousands of children throughout North America are rushed to emergency departments after swallowing poisonous substances.

Past efforts to reduce accidental poisoning, such as child-resistant packaging and public awareness campaigns, have been successful, but the North American safety agencies aim to do more.

Three steps all consumers can take to prevent poisoning:

1. Keep medicines and household chemicals in their original, child-resistant containers.
2. Store potentially hazardous substances up and out of a child’s sight and reach.
3. Keep the national Poison Help hotline number, 800-222-1222, handy in case of a poison emergency.

Additional poison prevention steps are:

  • When hazardous products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.
  • Keep items closed and in their original containers.
  • Leave the original labels on all products, and read the labels before using the products.
  • Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine so that you can see what you are giving or taking. Check the dosage every time.
  • Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as “medicine,” not “candy.”
  • Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of unneeded and outdated medicines.
  • Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by children.
  • Do not allow children to play with button cell batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.
  • If a button cell battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at (202) 625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call the Poison Help hotline at (800) 222-1222.


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission