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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 15, 2007

50,000 Ontarians are poisoned each year, according to the Ontario Poison Centre

TORONTO – Every year, more than 50,000 people in Ontario are poisoned. An estimated 95 per cent of these poisonings occur in the home, resulting from the improper use and storage of such common household items as cleaners, car products, medications, vitamins, cosmetics, perfumes, plants and even toothpaste. During this year's Poison Prevention Week (March 18 - 24), the Ontario Poison Centre will work to educate Ontarians about poison prevention at home.

“Poisons are everywhere and affect everyone. Young children are at the highest risk for poisoning, but 44 per cent of our cases involve adults. Nearly any substance can be poisonous if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount ,” says Heather Ferries, nurse educator for the Ontario Poison Centre.

The Ontario Poison Centre offers several tips on how to reduce the risk of unintentional poisoning in your home:

Store products in their original containers. Harmful products are packaged in distinctive containers that are labeled with important instructions and warning symbols. When a poison is moved to a different container for convenient use, it immediately becomes less recognizable as a dangerous substance and essential safety information is lost.

Never put harmful products in a drinking container. Chemicals can easily be confused with beverages, especially if placed in a water or pop bottle. Never leave bleach sitting in a tea or coffee pot. Someone may be tempted to drink from it.

Make poisons inaccessible. Children are surprisingly good climbers and are not deterred by strong smells and bad tastes. Although most containers are child-resistant, none are childproof. Harmful products should be placed in a locked box or a cupboard secured with a child safety latch.

Never leave a poison unattended. If you are using a cleaning product and are called away by the telephone or doorbell, take the cleaning product with you. It only takes a second for a child to swallow chemicals. Even those products that are used on a daily basis, such as toothpaste, vitamins and prescription medications, should be returned to a locked cupboard or box immediately after use. Never leave a purse containing perfumes, cosmetics or lotions in an accessible place.

Do not throw medications and chemicals in the garbage. Not only are they bad for the environment, but if placed in the garbage they can become accessible to children. Return expired medications to your local pharmacy and chemicals such as antifreeze and paint to your local hazardous waste depot where they can be disposed of properly.

Store chemicals away from foods. It is easy to mistake cleaning spray for cooking spray when in a hurry.

Never mix chemicals or cleaning products. The combination can produce toxic fumes.

Always clean up immediately after a party. Even small amounts of alcohol and cigarette butts can cause serious harm to a child.

What to do in the event of poisoning:

  • If a person ingests a possible harmful substance, give sips of water. If the substance is breathed in, go outside or into fresh air. If eyes and skin are exposed, flush with room-temperature water for 15 minutes.
  • Do not induce vomiting. This can lead to serious throat trauma.
  • Call the Ontario Poison Centre immediately after a poisoning. The centre, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, can be called toll-free from anywhere in Ontario at 1-800-268-9017.

If the person is not responding to you, shaking or having trouble breathing or swallowing, call 911 immediately.

The Ontario Poison Centre, located at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), provides expert poison advice to all of Ontario , 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our specialized staff provide phone consultations in the event of a real or potential poisoning, offer support to health-care professionals, educate the public in poison prevention and research best practice for the treatment of poisoning. For more information, call 1-800-268-9017 / 416-813-5900.

For more information, please contact:

Media Contact
Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
Fax: 416-813-5328