Don’t Leave that Pump Bottle Within Reach

The statistics are alarming. A new study by Ohio State University shows children are being poisoned by household cleaners; 12,000 children per year are rushed off to the ER. It's totally preventable, yet it totally happens. Since 1990, a quarter of a million children under age 5 have been poisoned by household cleaners in this country. The good news is that the rate is half today what it was in 1990 but 12,000 per year is still way too many.

Posted on | Gary Ginsberg, PhD | Comments ()

The statistics are alarming. A new study by Ohio State University shows children are being poisoned by household cleaners; 12,000 children per year are rushed off to the ER. It's totally preventable, yet it totally happens. Since 1990, a quarter of a million children under age 5 have been poisoned by household cleaners in this country. The good news is that the rate is half today what it was in 1990 but 12,000 per year is still way too many. 

As much as we like to think that our homes are safe and child-proofed, the reality is that common household cleaners are skull and crossbone products patently dangerous if over-inhaled or, god forbid, ingested. Bleach, ammonia, drain unclogger and toilet bowl cleaner are the most hazardous, but many others contain powerful acids, bases, surfactants, and detergents that if entering the eyes or stomach can cause burns. If a child ingests even small amounts he or she may vomit it back up and it could get caught in their lungs, a particularly bad outcome. 

Here are some facts from the Ohio State study you should be aware of:

  • The most common age for this to happen is in 1-3 year olds.
  • The most common bottle type is anything with a spray delivery – toddlers can have fun spraying a bottle of furniture polish, toilet bowl cleaner or even hairspray all over themselves – not fun once the chemicals burn the eyes, nose and stomach.
  • This often occurs when a parent is in the middle of cleaning and leaves the project for just a few seconds to answer the phone or deal with an older child. 

Prevention involves being especially vigilant with cleaning products – store them in locked cabinets and in their original (hopefully child-proof) containers. Make sure all spray bottles have the nozzle turned to the "off" position. Don’t leave cleaning products unattended and within reach of a toddler even for a few seconds. And look for green cleaners that avoid harsh ingredients like chlorine, ammonia, sulfuric acid and butyl cellusolve. Yes parents – make your homes sparkly clean for your little ones, but please do it safely. 

Blog written by Gary Ginsberg, PhD
Dr. Ginsberg is a public health toxicologist whose research focuses on the unique susceptibilities of children to environmental...