Poison Control Center

National Poison Prevention Week—March 18-24, 2012

By Lina Younes

Did you know that poisonings continue to be a significant cause of illness and death in the United States? Did you also know that the majority of these poisonings are 100% preventable? That’s why EPA and its federal partners are joining forces to increase awareness of the dangers of poisoning during National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24. More than 150,000 calls to poison centers involved pesticides. More than 50% of these exposures involve children 5 years old or younger.

EPA has taken special steps to prevent accidental exposures among young children because they are especially vulnerable for several reasons. Since their body and organs are in full development mode, any exposure increases poisoning dangers. Also, since children are frequently crawling and putting things in their mouth, these behaviors put them at a greater risk. In fact, last year, EPA took regulatory steps to prevent poisonings from rodent control products in the home. Now EPA is requiring that all manufacturers of rat poison products only sell them to consumers in bait stations that are tamper-resistant for children and pets.

So what can you do to protect your family from accidental poisonings? Here are some simple tips:

  • First of all, keep pest control products, household cleaners, and medication up high, out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
  • Read the label before using a pest control or household cleaning product.
  • Using more than indicated on the label does not kill more pests or clean better. In fact, misuse of the product only increases the risk of poisonings.
  • Keep pesticides and household chemicals in their original bottles.
  • Don’t use illegal pesticides. They are extremely toxic and dangerous.
  • Go through your home room by room to see where there are potential poisoning hazards and correct accordingly.
  • Program the Poison Help Line (800-222-1222) into your phone and post the poison help line number near your phone. In the event of an accidental poisoning, call the toll free Poison Help line which is staffed around the clock. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

Help us spread the word during National Poison Prevention Week! Together we may prevent accidental poisonings in the home. Have you taken any steps to prevent poisonings lately? We would love to hear from you.

If you want additional information on the safe use of pest control products, visit our new Website.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Hard Lesson in Poison Prevention…Children Really Do Act Fast

By Darlene Dinkins

I knew the slogan by heart, “Children act fast, so do poisons,” could recite prevention tips in my sleep, and rattle off poisoning data. Still, by the end of the evening, I found myself frantically calling the Poison Control Center for help.

It was a typical evening of trying to wrestle my 1-year-old son and 2-½-year-old daughter into the bath and bed by 7:30 pm. My husband and I usually shared this wonderful duty, but he wasn’t home, so I had the honor to myself. As I turned back to help my son, I heard the “ssssssssss” of aerosol and Niya’s scream, “My eyes! Mommy…my eyes!” When I turned around and saw Niya, her eyes were closed tight. She was holding a disinfectant can. I grabbed her and ran to the bathroom to flush her face with cool water and tried to calm her. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think about how this would affect her vision. Is the chemical burning her eyes? Should I take her to the emergency room? At that point, I started to panic and decided to call Poison Control. The poison center expert I spoke to on the phone was courteous, informative, and calm. She confirmed that flushing with cool running water was best. My daughter was fine. I was relieved.

That incident happened nearly 12 years ago, but I still think about it every March as I prepare for National Poison Prevention Week. I still remember the relief I felt – for immediate access, expertise, and reassurance from the poison center.

That day I learned the true value of the 60 American Association of Poison Control Centers nationally. The relief, knowing that Niya would be fine, and that I didn’t need to take her to the emergency room was priceless.

I was also reminded about the need to be diligent: keeping household chemicals out of children’s reach, using child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container tightly after use, and reclosing products if I’m interrupted.

And, the most memorable thing I learned that evening was that children really do act fast.
For tips on preventing poisonings, visit

About the author: Darlene Dinkins has been working for EPA since 1992 and has served on the Poison Prevention Week Council since 1995. She assists with coordinating national efforts to educate the public on preventing poisonings.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.