Does a threat to your child lurk under your kitchen or bathroom sink? More than 50 percent of families leave household chemicals unsecured, according to research by the nonprofit Home Safety Council. Tragically, such chemicals – including cleaning supplies and cosmetics – are the most frequent cause of child poisoning incidents.
National Poison Prevention Week, March 21-27, draws parents’ attention to common hazards around the home and how they can be prevented. Even products with child-proof caps or those stored behind special latches can be a threat, because parents may not realize the extent of the danger.
“We don’t want to think that something bad will happen in our homes, the place where we want to feel safest,” explains Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “We’re used to seeing household chemicals, but it’s rare for people to invest the time” to keep their extra-strength drain cleaner or their blood pressure medication out of a child’s reach.
To lower the risk of child poisoning in your home, Appy offers this advice:
• Control the perimeter. Do a room-by-room search for potential hazards and make an inventory. Pay special attention to your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, garage or any place where low shelves or cabinets could harbor harmful substances. “Look at things from a kid’s perspective,” advises Appy. For example, an “orange fresh” cleaning solvent may smell like a delicious drink to a child.
• Read labels. Look for the words “caution,” “warning” or “danger.” Substances with these words on their labels should always be kept away from children.
• Put the hazards in a secure, out-of-sight place. Any room where you store chemicals and products should have its own locked storage unit for them. Make sure that children can’t see the products you store. And remember that a child-resistant lock is only that; it is not child-proof and can easily be overcome by a determined youngster. Secure the products using child-proof materials.
• Educate yourself and your children. Once you learn about the poison hazards in your house, tell your kids what to watch out for. When children see a hazard, they should tell an adult. The Home Safety Council’s Web site for kids, www.coderedrover.com, can help you teach your children about potential dangers in their home.
• Call for help. If a poisoning does occur, call the National Poison Hotline at 800-222-1222. Your call will then be routed to your local poison control office, where trained staff will help you out and even call an ambulance if necessary. The hotline can also answer questions about poisons in nonemergency situations.
For more information, visit the Home Safety Council online at www.homesafetycouncil.org.
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– Elizabeth A. Allen