In Oregon, a 6-year-old girl was given an accidental lethal dose of liquid nicotine by her father, who confused it for children’s pain medication.
The girl’s parents were both smokers and vapers. The mother had just purchased a highly concentrated form of liquid nicotine for their e-cigarettes, then followed the instructions regarding how to dilute it using vegetable glycerin. She used an empty children’s ibuprofen bottle to store the diluted liquid, lightly writing “NIC” on the outside. When the father searched for medication to give the girl, who was suffering from a sprained ankle, he accidentally used the liquid nicotine.
The case reported that the girl felt a burning sensation right away, and as her mother tried to force her to vomit, she blacked out and had a seizure.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital by ambulance, where she was intubated, treated and eventually released.
“From all the toxicologic science known, small sips of around a teaspoonful of concentrated nicotine from one of these containers could be enough to kill a toddler,” said Kyran Quinlan, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury Violence and Poison Prevention. “The amount this child ingested is above the range of a lethal dose.”
Apparently the girl’s mother had purchased a liter of the concentrated liquid nicotine with a manufacturer’s label stating it had a concentration of 60 mg/mL. Lab tests found it contained a concentration closer to 140 mg/mL, 234 percent higher than the label stated.
An estimated 50 to 60 mg of nicotine is considered to be a lethal dose for adults. The 6-year-old had ingested around 703 mg of nicotine.
Quinlan argues that the regulations on e-cigarettes and liquids are still too lax. “We remain deeply concerned about the risks of unintentional ingestion of liquid nicotine by children.”
Ray Story, founder and CEO of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association says there should be limits on the concentration strength of liquid nicotine, as well as the size of the bottle available. He supports requirements such as age restrictions and child-resistant packaging.
“But there is some responsibility of the user,” Story stated in an interview. “It’s no different than locking your liquor cabinet or putting your laundry detergent away.”
E-cigarettes have been found to contain diacetyl, a chemical used in flavorings to mimic the creamy taste of butter. Although the liquid nicotine ingested by the Oregon girl was unflavored, the contents of liquid nicotine continues to be a threat to consumers’ health.
A recent study showed that 92 percent of e-cigarette liquids tested were positive for diacetyl, acetoin and 2,3-pentanedione, similar chemicals that have been linked to serious lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans. The disease is untreatable, and is only cured by lung transplant.