Toxic trouble: Household items pose poison dangers for children

Children 6 years old, younger at greatest risk for ingesting toxic products

Children under the age of 6 years old are particularly at risk for getting poisoned by ingesting household items that they shouldn't be. Whether its houseplants, hair products or vapes, it's important to keep young children away from them.

This National Poison Prevention Week, we’re diving into the potential toxic hazards in your home -- particularly those that children can get their hands on.

Kids that are 6 years old and younger are particularly at risk for accidentally ingesting something poisonous. It’s important to know what products in your household are dangerous for children, as ingesting certain chemicals can cause injury, or even death.

The headlines were alarming when laundry detergent pods first hit the market, as the pods were colorful and could look like something edible to the untrained, or not-fully-developed, eye. Even now, children are still eager to ingest detergent pods.

That’s why it’s important to lock up cleaning supplies, in addition to medications and other harmful chemicals.

“Approximately 40% of the calls to poison centers involve children under the age of 6,” said Dawn Sollee, director of the Florida USVI Poison Information Center.

Cosmetics and personal care products like makeup, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, nail polish remover and even mouthwash can be harmful if ingested. Hair relaxers and dyes can cause severe burns in the mouth and esophagus if swallowed.

Batteries can be dangerous, too -- especially the smaller ones. Button batteries can easily be swallowed, and they can burn a child internally.

Cleaning supplies can cause chemical burns, especially drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners.

And for those who vape at home, liquid nicotine vape refills are deadly if ingested.

Vapes are particularly dangerous, as flavors like cotton candy and bubblegum are appealing to kids. In 2018, more than 1,890 children aged 5 years old and younger were exposed to vaping liquids.

If swallowed, vomiting, irregular heartbeat and seizures can occur. Just a teaspoon of the liquid nicotine can be fatal for a 26-pound toddler.

“I always tell parents to get down on the level of the child,” Sollee said. “It lets you see things in a whole new, different light compared to when you’re looking from a standing position.”

Some houseplants can also be toxic to children and pets. Not only can they cause digestive tract issues, but some can even be fatal if ingested.

Here are the top 10 houseplants that should be kept out of the house if you have children under the age of 5 years old:

  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Arrowhead
  • Lily
  • Peace Lily
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Oleander
  • Caladium
  • Mother-In-Law’s Tongue
  • Ivy

Also, keep in mind that liquid chemicals aren’t the only worrisome products when it comes to poison hazards for children. Foreign objects -- such as a penny, legos or a silica gel pack commonly found in new purses or shoes -- are not only choking hazards if swallowed, but also need to be monitored via x-ray after ingestion.

The Michigan Poison Center can be contacted at 1-800-222-1222.


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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.