Nearly 12,000 children aged 1-5 went to a hospital emergency room because they drank, touched or were sprayed with household cleaners in a single year, according to a new study that analyzed data from 1990 to 2006.
The good news is that the number of annual emergency room visits for household cleaner injuries is down 46% since 1990, primarily because childproof containers are now required, and parents are better educated. But the bad news is that the actual number of children hurt by household cleaners is likely to be significantly higher than the reported number, and at least 744 children poisoned by household cleansers suffered life-threatening or permanent injuries in the last year studied, according to the authors of the study, Lara B. McKenzie, Nisha Ahir, Uwe Stolz and Nicolas G. Nelson, who published their research today in Pediatrics. The study relied on data from about 100 emergency rooms from around the country.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends storing cleansers in locked cabinets, buying products with child-resistant packaging, retaining products in their original packaging and disposing properly of unneeded cleansers. Many parents report taking these steps, but studies show they rarely do. The Daily Green additionally recommends avoiding harsh cleansers in the first place, by choosing nontoxic off-the-shelf cleansers, or making your own, which is often as easy as mixing baking soda and vinegar. Try simple nontoxic DIY cleansers to clean anything around the home.
So what makes kids sick?
Here's a look at the categories of cleansers that caused emergency room visits, in order from most to least.
1. Bleach: 37%
swimming pool chemicals
2. Other: 30%
general-purpose household cleaners
room deodorizers or fresheners
windshield wiper fluids
3. Low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons: 13%
pine oil cleaning products
4. Acids and/or alkalis: 10%
toilet bowl products
5. Detergents: 7%
laundry soaps and detergents
(Even seemingly benign cleansers like these can be poisonous; dishwasher tablets or powder, and many laundry detergents, can be caustic enough to burn skin or damage the respiratory tract or stomach if swallowed.)
6. Ammonia: 3%
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