The third week of March is National Poison Prevention Week, and our team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. proudly supports the opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of poisoning and promote community involvement in poison prevention.
Our attorneys have represented many victims, workers, and families affected by poisoning, and are happy to share some helpful information about poisoning statistics and ways to stay safe.
What is a Poison?
Poisons can take many different forms, harming people when they get in their eyes or skin, or when they are inhaled or swallowed. Generally, a poison is anything that can harm a person if it is:
- Used in the wrong way;
- Used by the wrong person; or
- Used in the wrong amount.
As a Civil Injury Law Firm, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is well aware of the many ways victims can suffer harm and losses from poisoning, including exposure to toxic and harmful substances (such as asbestos), carbon monoxide and lead poisoning, occupational disease, and more. Preventable poisoning may also involve premises liability and negligent property owners, defective products, or workplace accidents and catastrophes, such as construction fires and explosions.
Poisoning in the U.S.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), U.S. Poison Control Centers (PCCs) responded to over 2 million human exposure cases in 2018 – that’s equal to a new poison exposure case every 15 seconds!
Per the AAPCC annual report, 92% of all poison exposure cases handled by U.S. Poison Control Centers in 2018 occurred in a residence, and 72% were unintentional. The top 5 causes of poison exposure in 2018 were:
- Opioid medications and painkillers
- Household cleaning substances
- Personal care and cosmetic products
- Antipsychotic, hypnotic, and sedative medications
- Antidepressant medications
Poison Prevention Tips
In a vast majority of cases, poisonings happen in people’s homes – often in kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. To help prevent unintentional poisonings, here are a few simple tips that can make a difference.
- Storing Medicines: Keep all medications in locked cabinets, or store them safely in an area where they cannot be accessed by children
- Labels: Keep medications in their original containers, with their labels.
- Drug Interactions: Never share prescription medications. If you take more than one prescription, check with your health care provider, pharmacist, or call your local Poison Control Center to learn about possible drug interactions.
Household Products, Cleaners & Chemicals
- Spring Cleaning: If you have plans for Spring cleaning, never mix chemicals, detergents, or cleaners, as doing so may create a poisonous gas. Because many cleaners can burn the skin (i.e. drain and toilet cleaners, rust removers, etc.), wear gloves when cleaning. You should also never sniff a container to determine what’s in it, and should turn on fans and open windows to provide ventilation when using cleaners and other chemical products.
- Storing Cleaners & Chemicals: Store your cleaners in their original containers (never in the same containers you use for food), and keep them away from food products. Many poisonings occur when one product is mistaken for another.
- Know the Hazards: Always read instructions and warnings when using cleaning supplies and chemicals, and familiarize yourself with the hazards they pose. For example, liquids made from petroleum, such as gasoline, kerosene, baby oil, charcoal lighter fluid, paint thinner, and furniture polish, are poisonous, especially if they are swallowed or inhaled.
- Child Supervision: It’s best to store cleaning supplies and chemicals in a locked cabinet or an area that can’t be reached by children. Still, always supervise children when using these products, and talk to them about the hazards they pose. Teach your kids to ask an adult if they’re not sure about whether something is dangerous, or need help with cleaning.
- Pesticides: Have a yard? Using pesticides can help with pest management, but pest killers can be extremely poisonous. When using bug spray or other spray products, always wear protective clothing (i.e. long shirts, pants, shoes, and gloves) and remove and wash clothing after use. Always supervise children when using pesticides, and keep them (and anyone else) away from freshly-sprayed areas for at least an hour.
- Safe Food Prep: Always wash hands, counters, and cutting board before preparing food, and use clean utensils for cooking and serving. After handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood, use hot, soapy water to wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes.
- Food Storage: Store, cook, and reheat food at the proper temperatures, and don’t let food sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Food that’s been in the refrigerator should not be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees. Foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, and cooked vegetables can quickly spoil and become unsafe.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas with no odor, taste, or color. All fuel-burning devices produce CO, especially when they are not working properly or are used in spaces without proper ventilation (CO can accumulate in enclosed areas).
- Common sources of CO include gas water heaters, furnaces, stoves / ovens, wood and gas fireplaces, power generators, motor vehicles, and kerosene space heaters.
- People at greater risk for carbon monoxide poisoning include the elderly, pregnant mothers, children, and people with heart disease and respiratory conditions. Signs of CO-poisoning are similar to flu symptoms, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and vomiting.
- Prevention Tips: Always have at least one operational CO detector in your home, preferably near bedrooms and close to furnaces, which can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide. Other precautions include having your heating / HVAC system, vents, and chimneys checked each year by licensed experts, following instructions when installing and repairing fuel-burning appliances, never using unvented fuel-burning devices indoors, and never running a car in a closed garage.
When You Suspect Poisoning
- If the person is not breathing, call 911.
- If poison was inhaled, get the person to fresh air immediately. If poison came into contact with skin or eyes, remove clothing and rinse skin / eyes with running water for 15-20 minutes.
- Do not wait for signs of poisoning before calling Poison Help (1-800-222-1222), which will connect you to your local poison center. Remain calm, and make sure to have the product or container which may have caused poisoning nearby.
We encourage you to learn more about National Poison Prevention Month and explore related topics by visiting the Health Resources & Service Administration website at Poisonhelp.hrsa.gov. If you have questions about a preventable poisoning, our legal team is available to discuss your potential case, rights, and options during a free consultation. The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. proudly serves clients throughout NYC and the state of New York.