Children act fast, and sadly so do poisons!

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

12-1005_ChemLookALike_1325Sadly, every day in the United States, more than 300 children (ages 0 to 19) are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s not just chemicals in your home marked with clear warning labels that can be dangerous to children. Everyday items in your home, such as household cleaners and medicines, can be poisonous to children as well. Medication dosing mistakes and unsupervised ingestions are common ways that children are poisoned.

Active, curious 16-1623_ChemLookALike_6082children will often investigate and sometimes try to eat or drink anything that they can easily get into. National Poison Prevention Week, taking place March 15-21, 2020, reminds us that some of the deadliest and most dangerous items in our homes or on our farms are hiding in plain sight. Take a peek under your kitchen sink, laundry room or medicine cabinet. Household cleaning agents, prescription medications, pesticides, and other items can pose serious hazards to the health and well-being of our families and even our pets.

At Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®, chemical safety continues to be one of the most popular topics offered reaching more than 40,000 youth participants in 2019. One of the hands-on activities offered at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days is for participants to identify and distinguish look-a-like poisons from other safe items.

16-1596_ChemLookALike_1750For 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:

  1. Label harmful products and place them out of the reach of children.
  2. Periodically clean out storage cabinets and carefully following disposal instructions indicated on product labels.
  3. Avoid moving poisons or chemicals from their original container.
  4. Lead by example and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when handling chemicals.
  5. Add the Poison Control Center telephone number (1-800-222-1222) to your telephone contact list in your cell phone, as well as a place easy to locate in case of an emergency.

For more information on Progressive Agriculture Safety Days or to locate an event near you, visit or call 888-257-3529. Help send another child to a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in 2020 with a modest donation of only $13. Donate by texting the word “SAFETYDAY” to 44321.

Photos: In 2019, Chemical Safety was ranked as one of the top five lessons offered at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days. One of the most popular hands-on activities offered is on look-a-like poisons, where participants try to distinguish the difference between safe and unsafe items like medication and candy or sports drinks and household cleaners.