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Clean Ideas: Putting Poisons in Their Place

Tips to Minimize Poison Emergencies in Your Home

National Poison Prevention Week, the third week in March each year, was created to build public awareness of the dangers posed by common toxins. According to the 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System, approximately 2.5 million people were exposed to poisons. Children younger than 6 years accounted for half of all human exposures and ingestion was the route of exposure in nearly 80% of all cases. Many of the poisoning substances are found in the home, making diligence on the home front an important line of defense against accidental poisonings.

Here are some ways to safeguard family members and pets from accidental poisoning:

  • Install Child-Safety Locks on cabinets that house cleaning supplies, medicines, cosmetics, chemicals and other poisons. Never assume a cabinet is too high for a curious, climbing toddler.
  • Read and Follow the Product-Label Directions. Pay particular attention to products whose labels include the words "Caution," "Warning," "Danger" or "Poison."
  • Discard Medications that are no longer needed or that have outlived their expiration date. Do not flush them down the sink or toilet. Doing so can contaminate our water supplies. One option is to take pills out of their containers and discard them in the trash. However, this still creates a potential environmental problem and can be a potential danger to curious children and pets. A better option is to participate in local programs that collect old and unwanted medications. Visit the Take-Back Network website ( to find a program in your area, or contact your state or local waste management authority.
  • Keep All Household Products in Their Original Packages. Packaging includes useful first-aid information in the event of accidental exposure or ingestion. If you purchase these products in bulk quantities, buy a smaller size of the same product and refill this container, as needed.
  • Discard Empty Cleaning Supply Containers, Including Detergent Containers. Do not use them for storage of any other materials, particularly those intended for human consumption.
  • Thoroughly Wash any utensils used in dispensing or measuring medicines.
  • Wash Your Hands after cleaning-product usage.
  • Use Child-Resistant Packaging Properly by Closing the Container Securely after each use. Remember, however, that this type of packaging is "child-resistant" not "child-proof." It is not a substitute for keeping products securely out of reach of young children. Be aware that poisons can be inhaled, as well as ingested.
  • Don't Mix Household Cleaning Products. This could release harmful vapors or cause other chemical reactions that can have dangerous results.
  • Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors in your home. The best places for a CO detector are near bedrooms and close to furnaces. Since carbon monoxide is a deadly, but odorless, substance, working CO detectors should be essential equipment in your home.
  • Post the Poison Control Center Phone Number (1-800-222-1222) by every phone in your home and enter it into your cell phone's contact list.