By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among people ages 1 to 44 and continue to be the fifth leading cause of death overall, according to the National Safety Council. The top three causes of fatal unintentional injuries include motor vehicle crashes, poisoning, and falls. In 2016, nearly 69,000 deaths were related to poisoning. Every day, more than 300 children in the United States, ages 0 to 19, are treated in an emergency department as a result of being poisoned.
We highlight the importance of this issue and these sobering statistics during National Poison Prevention Week, held annually during the third week in March. Congress first recognized this week in 1961 to raise awareness, reduce unintentional poisonings and promote poison prevention. At Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®, chemical safety continues to be one of the most popular topics offered reaching nearly 52,000 youth participants and adult volunteers in 2017.
For young children that cannot read labels, many products around the home can look like popular candy or drinks. Even products that can be good for you, like vitamins and medicines, can become harmful if you do not follow the label directions. Common poison look-a-likes you may find around your home may include gummy vitamins that look like fruit snacks or gummy bears; laxatives resembling chocolate; household cleaners, liquid medications or mouthwash that may look like sports drinks or juice; and bleach or rubbing alcohol that resembles water. In recent years, we witnessed the dangers of laundry or dishwasher pods that look like candy. Also, with the legalization of marijuana in many states for recreational or medical use, the danger of edibles in baked goods, candy and beverages are a new concern. Despite their ordinary appearance, a single pot cookie or candy bar can contain several times the recommended adult dose of THC. Anyone who eats one of these edibles, especially a child, can experience overdose effects such as intoxication, altered perception, anxiety, panic, paranoia, dizziness, weakness, slurred speech, poor coordination, apnea, and heart problems according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Living with chemicals is a reality, but the National Safety Council encourages making informed decisions about the type of products you bring into your home. Understanding risk and limiting exposure are paramount to keeping your family safe. Before you buy, read the label to make sure you know exactly what you’re purchasing and understand terms and definitions found on product labels. Caution indicates the lowest level of potential harm, Warning indicates a higher level of potential harm meaning you could become seriously ill or injured, and Danger indicates the highest level of potential harm: tissue damage to skin, blindness, death or damage to the mouth, throat or stomach if swallowed. As parents, grandparents and caring adults, it is our responsibility to keep our children safe. Let’s be proactive by following these five safety tips:
- Label harmful products and place them out of the reach of children.
- Periodically clean out storage cabinets and carefully following disposal instructions indicated on product labels.
- Avoid moving poisons or chemicals from their original container.
- Lead by example and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when handling chemicals.
- Keep the telephone number of the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) in a place easy to locate in case of an emergency.
For more information or to locate a Safety Day near you, visit www.progresiveag.org or call us toll-free at 888-257-3529.
Photo: Participants at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® try to differentiate the poison and safe items in a chemical look-a-like activity. This year, National Poison Prevention Week will be celebrated March 17-23, 2019.