Household Cleaning Products Injure 12,000 Kids Yearly
Household cleaning products are consistently in the top five causes of pediatric poisonings with about 12,000 children treated in emergency departments each year. A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that an average of 33 children each year die due to unintentional poisoning. Though a new study has found that the rate of injuries are dropping because of child-resistant packaging, parents should still take necessary steps to ensure their home is safe for young children.
Spray Cleaners Injure Younger Kids
Lara B. McKenzie PhD MA of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus OH and colleagues found that, overall, the number of children age 5 years and younger treated for household cleaning product-related injuries fell 46% between 1990 and 2006. The data for the study came from a network of about 100 hospitals that report to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).
The youngest children had the highest injury rate from the spray cleaners, with children one to three accounting for nearly three-fourths of all cases. McKenzie notes that small children are curious and often put things in their mouths.
Most of the household product cleaner injuries were caused by bleach (37.1%). The next most common source was from low-molecular weight hydrocarbons such as those found in pine oil products and spot removers, oven cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners, and dish or laundry detergents.
Most of the products listed above are mandated to use child-resistant packaging, such as the “push-and-turn” tops found on laundry detergents and chemical cleaners. However, injuries involving chemicals stored in spray bottles did not decline and was associated with 40% of cleaner-related injuries. These do not offer the same degree of protection that other types of bottles and containers do, and the most common mechanism of injury was ingestion. Chemical burns were also common injuries.
The researchers cautioned that their study likely underestimated the number of injuries sustained by young children from household cleaners because it did not include injuries treated outside of emergency departments.
Parents with small children should take extra precautions to ensure that household cleaning products are kept in secured, locked cabinets away from food. While they are being used, the bottles should remain in constant adult supervision. Close the bottle completely after using, even if you plan to open it again in a few minutes.
Dr. McKenzie also notes that products should remain in their original packaging, but be aware that some of these may look like food or drink to a child. An abrasive cleaner, for example, may resemble a container of Parmesan cheese.
Parents who suspect their child has come in contact with a poison should immediately contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, which will direct callers to their local Poison Center. If a child is unconscious, not breathing, or having seizures, they should call 9-1-1.
McKenzie LB, et al "Household Cleaning Product-Related Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments in 1990 –2006" Pediatrics 2010; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3392.