Press Release

American Association of Poison Control Centers Brings Awareness to Emerging Poison Hazards During National Safety Month

June 7, 2016 | Download PDF

ALEXANDRIA, VA – During the month of June 2016, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) will celebrate National Safety Month (NSM) by bringing awareness to emerging poison hazards the public is currently facing, as well as inform the public on how to properly prevent and treat poisonous exposures.

In an effort to reduce leading causes of injury and death, the entire month of June each year is designated as National Safety Month (NSM) and is sponsored by the National Safety Council (NSC, http://www.nsc.org/). “Poisoning continues to be the leading cause of injury death in the United States, ahead of car accidents and gun-related fatalities. National observances, such as NSM, are vital in raising awareness about important safety issues, such as poisoning prevention and treatment,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, JD, AAPCC CEO and Executive Director. “AAPCC is proud to participate in NSM and help to bring awareness to the critical role poison centers play in our nation’s healthcare system.”

AAPCC works with America's 55 poison centers to track, prevent, and provide expert treatment advice about unintentional and intentional poisonings and their sources, including household products, food and beverages, chemicals in the workplace and home, environmental toxins, drugs and medicine, and animal and insect bites and stings. “Anything can be poisonous when used in the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person,” said Krista Osterthaler, Chair of the National Poison Prevention Week Council and Director of National Outreach at AAPCC. “While there are many recurrent threats to the public, poison centers have seen an uptick in exposures involving relatively new and emerging hazards, specifically e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, laundry detergent packets, and synthetic cannabinoids. AAPCC especially applauds NSC’s efforts to curb the prescription painkiller overdose epidemic.”

Due to the bright packaging and candy like flavors of many liquid nicotine cartridges and unsealed e-cigarette devices, it is no surprise that children are drawn to these products. In 2014, about 59 percent of all e-cigarette and liquid nicotine exposures reported to poison centers were for children ages 5 and under. In 2015, preliminary analysis shows that approximately 70 percent of these exposures were in kids, roughly 2,600 reported cases. Poison centers are most concerned about the dangerous of ingesting liquid nicotine because it can cause acute nicotine toxicity. One teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be lethal to a child, and smaller amounts can cause severe illness, often requiring visits to the emergency room, with nausea and vomiting being the most significant symptoms.

“From the approval of the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, to more recently, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to extend regulation of e-cigarette and additional nicotine products, AAPCC has been a supporter of actions taken to address the hazards posed by these products. However, even with these new rules in place, adults should take care to keep all tobacco and e-cigarette products up, away, and out of sight of kids. In addition, programming the Poison Help line, 1-800-222-1222, into your mobile telephone, and posting it in a visible place in your home is the best way to be prepared for poisoning emergencies,” said Kaminski.

Similar to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, poison centers across the country have been receiving an increase in the number of calls about children getting into detergent packets, such as single-load liquid laundry packets. Laundry packets, which are encased in a water-soluble membrane that can burst open, are typically highly concentrated compared to traditional laundry detergent and therefore can cause significantly more harm to children if exposed. Using data from the National Poison Data System, arecent study published in Pediatrics (Apr. 2016) found that from January 2013 through December 2014, poison centers received an increase in calls for all types of detergent exposures. However, the rise in calls concerning laundry packets was the greatest, increasing 17 percent over the two year period.

While exposures to traditional laundry detergent typically cause only a mildly upset stomach, children who ingest and/or inhale the contents of single load laundry packets can experience more serious effects, such as excessive vomiting, wheezing and gasping. Some also have breathing problems serious enough to require a ventilator. When children are exposed through the eyes, there have also been reports of corneal abrasions (scratches to the eyes). “In combination with appropriate safety packaging, labeling, and product design, AAPCC supports increased public information dissemination and laundry detergent packet exposure prevention education efforts. Parents and caregivers should always follow the instructions on the product labels, and call the Poison Help hotline immediately if a child swallows detergent or gets it in his or her eyes. Ideally, laundry packets should be stored up, away, and out of sight of children, and in their original containers, or in cabinets secured with child-resistant locks. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a 100% child-proof lock or container. Also, we want the public to understand that many of these dangerous laundry detergent packet exposures result from a parent or caregiver leaving a single packet out and within reach of a child, intending to use it right away” said Osterthaler.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also marketed under the names Spice, K2, and “synthetic marijuana,” contain powerful chemicals that can cause dangerous health effects, including psychotic episodes and seizures. In 2009 poison centers began receiving an increase in the number of calls related these drugs. Since then, these substances have quickly spread throughout the country. Poison centers received 2,668 calls about exposures to these drugs in 2013, 3,682 exposures in 2014, and 7,794 exposures in 2015. Poison centers continue to manage several hundreds of cases each month.

Synthetic drugs remain a risk to the public’s health and a hazard to public safety. They are not only addictive, but are extremely dangerous. The health effects from these drugs can be life-threatening and can include: severe agitation, anxiety, racing heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures, intense hallucinations, and psychotic episodes, as well as suicidal and other harmful thoughts or actions.

“If you or someone you know has used synthetic cannabinoids call the Poison Help hotline,” said Kaminski. “You will immediately be connected to a poison specialist at your local poison center, who can provide you with free, confidential, expert medical advice. In addition to poisoning emergencies, these experts also manage informational calls, 24 hours a day, year-round, at no cost to the caller. During NSM take a few minutes to prepare for any poison emergency by saving the Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, as a contact in your phone. You never know when you or someone you care about might need this critical public health resource.”

For more information on these and other emerging poison hazards, visit AAPCC’s Alerts webpage: http://www.aapcc.org/alerts/

For more information, the media may contact Angela Gonzales, AAPCC Associate Manager, Communications and Outreach, at 703-894-1865 or gonzales@aapcc.org.

AAPCC supports the nation’s 55 poison center members in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA, CDC, FDA and EPA, as well as private industry. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency and program the Poison Help phone number into your mobile telephone today – 1 (800) 222-1222.

To learn more, visit www.aapcc.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@AAPCC).

For More Information

  • Edward V. Walrod

    • Associate Manager for Media and Public Relations
    • Email: media at aapcc dot org
    • 703-894-1863

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